How to Be an Awesome Grandparent
Do you want a fun, and loving relationship with your grandchildren and their parents? Here is how to be an AWESOME grandparent and create an unforgettable bond with your grandchildren!
July 2023 Update: This was the very first grand-parenting post I wrote. For a long time it was my most popular, until I wrote the follow-up, How to Be an Unforgettable Grandparent.
I celebrate every holiday and birthday with them and I know that I am very fortunate to live about an hour away from them.
This post is a little different from my other ones which focus on the fun side of grand-parenting. In this post I dig a little deeper into the other relationships and how you conduct yourself.
The truth is, that having a strong relationship with your grandchildren also requires you to have a good relationship with their parents (if possible) and to have your own meaningful life.
As much fun as grandchildren are, they can’t take the place of damaged relationships or a life you don’t love.
I’ve also written many other posts as my relationships with my grandchildren grow and expand. Looking for activities, check out 19+ Unforgettable Activities to do with Grandchildren.
Being their Grammy is one of my most cherished roles in life. I originally wrote this post more than five years ago. But it formed the basis for how I approached grandparent-hood. It is definitely a keeper!
Being an Awesome Grandparent Isn’t About Perfect Situations
When families grow and grandchildren are born; it’s easy to get excited about this new relationship.
But it can be a complicated one because you are also dealing with your own child and their spouse and other grandparents.
Add divorces, remarriages, and stepchildren in and sometimes things can get rocky!
Our family has all of the above! My husband and I divorced about nine years ago and soon after found out that we were going to be grandparents.
Our family made the decision that we would always celebrate things together, as much as possible. Our kids didn’t want to split time between parents.
Just this week, we celebrated one of the grandkids birthdays. My ex-husband and his wife flew in and we spent the day together as our big, at-times messy family.
I wouldn’t have it any other way!
It’s easy to get frustrated, confused, or feel like you are falling short. But read on and I’ll show you how you can become an awesome grandparent right from the get go.
The first step is to believe that YOU can.
Being an awesome grandparent is a matter of choice. It’s not about what you buy or how much you do. It’s about creating an awesome relationship that is great for everyone involved.
This post is still the BEST advice I can give. Seriously, being an awesome grandparent is the best. And I am adding an extra tip, so it’s really 11 tips on how to be an awesome grandparent.
Putting the thought and effort into being an awesome grandparent is so worth it!
Over a million people have read those posts! To read more posts about being an amazing grandparent, go to my roundup of all my posts!
Not only do you build an amazing relationship with your grandchildren but you strengthen the relationship with their parents.
Why You Want to Be an Awesome Grandparent?
Being an awesome grandparent feels good. It’s good for you and for your grandchildren. Being connected with other humans is the most healthy thing you can do in your life.
Some studies even say being an active grandparent can help you live longer.
Not only that but research points to benefits to our grandchildren as well.
From the very beginning, I’ve treated my grandparent/grandchild relationship as, well a relationship. All relationships require time, effort, and thought.
So often, we have fantasies about how being a grandparent will be. But remember, there are many other people involved! The children themselves, their parents, and even other grandparents.
Figuring out your role in this new paradigm is important. You won’t know exactly how it will work until you are in it. However, I want your experience as a grandparent to be amazing and that’s why I wrote this.
So, here are my 10 suggestions for being an awesome grandparent.
#1 Respect the Parents
This is my #1 rule on how to be an awesome grandparent. If you get nothing else out of this article—please take away this advice.
The parent-child relationship is sacred and to be a trusted person in your grandchildren’s life, you have to honor Mom and Dad’s parenting decisions.
Everything I do as a grandparent must be in line with what my daughter and her husband want.
When the parents, know that you’ll abide by their house rules, it allows them to relax and enjoy your relationship with their kids—your grandchildren.
This is whether you agree or not. Mom and Dad rule and what they say goes!
Sometimes they may ask for advice and then by all means give it. However, don’t offer too much of it unsolicited.
Look, I’m human too, so I occasionally offer something. But I don’t take it personal if my daughter isn’t into it.
Honestly, I think she is an AMAZING mother even though she does many things completely different than I did.
And you know what? Her children are healthy and happy even though my daughter parents differently than I did.
Along with follow their rules, be sure and hold back any criticism.
Don’t Have Favorites!
This is really important. You may have some preferences but no matter what you think or feel, to truly be awesome, all grand children get treated the same.
You can’t be sneaky about it either. Children remember. Cousins get together and talk about it.
Your children will discuss it. If you have a favorite and set one grandchild or one family’s children apart, everyone will know and talk about it.
I recently had someone tell me how they have such a special bond with one of their grandkids. This is just my opinion but I think that’s just not healthy long-term.
You don’t want your legacy to be that you favored one child or one family’s children over the others.
I know, some things are out of your control. You might live closer to some. Focus on what you can control.
- You spend the same on all grandchildren
- You make the same effort for all the grandchildren
- You don’t spend any time thinking about why you like some less than others
Being consistent helps build and maintain the relationship. Regular visits, FaceTime/Skype, and phone calls keep you connected with your grandchildren.
I am so fortunate to live an hour away from my granddaughters and I visit once a week.
The timing and number of visits depends on your situation, the family situation, and your relationship with the parents.
Children love routines and things they can count on. I try to keep a regular afternoon for visits. If you live further away, you could have regular FaceTime, phone, or Skype visits.
Some of my grandparent friends watch the grandchildren once a week or pick them up from school.
You don’t have to have a schedule–but showing up consistently really helps build the bond.
Create “Special” Activities
These special occasions do not have to be anything big or expensive. In fact you can turn ordinary days or evenings into special activities by giving them “special” names.
One of our favorites is “Girl’s Night.” I used to go over once a week when my son-in-law worked late and play with the girls, visit with my daughter, and share dinner with them.
We called it “Girls’ Night” and that makes it sound fun and exciting even though we are following their exact evening routine.
Sometimes it’s “Special Time with Grammy.” Or “Crazy Dance Party.” It doesn’t matter what you plan or do, but giving it a special name makes it memorable to your grandchild.
The girls love to swing. We always try to get outside and swing at least once a day when I visit. We drag a big boom box out and the girls have a list of songs on a playlist on my phone that we play.
If you want ideas for activities, check out this post, Unforgettable Activities to do with Grandchildren.
That post has a lot of activities. Be sure and read the comments too to hear from lots of other grandparents!
Another fun thing we do is Movie Night. We put out a picnic blanket on the floor with plenty of pillows for the girls. Then their dad makes us all popcorn and whatever treat we want with that. Sometimes mom and I will have a glass of wine. It’s fun to find movies that three generations can watch together.
Create “Your Thing”
Creating “your thing” with a grandchild often happens spontaneously the first time.
After that, repeating it cements it into your grandchild’s life as something only you can provide. These often change as the child gets older.
At 2, my granddaughter loved to stand on a chair in the kitchen and “cook.” I put together safe fun activities that allowed her to measure, stir, and pour.
She used to love to be in my arms to dance when a certain song comes on. Now she has her favorite playlist of songs she loves to dance to.
These days, my now 5-year old granddaughter loves to do crafts. I keep a big box of crafty things so she can cut, color, and glue to her heart’s content!
At seven, my older granddaughter loved to play her games on my iPad (that we picked out together), cuddle up near me to read a book, or have me go outside with her while she played.
Her “things” were often quiet and cuddly. Going to the library or bookstore and getting a couple of new books and finding a cool place to read is one of our favorite things.
She still loves to read and play video games!
Depending on your personality you can definitely jazz it up. I have a friend that is teaching her four-year old granddaughter to bake. Another plays in the pool with her granddaughters or does messy art with them.
Get Silly With Them
I don’t know about you but I don’t often get the opportunity to straight up get silly. Being with young grandchildren is the perfect opportunity.
My girls love silly dancing and singing to music, play acting, telling jokes, using funny voices, and anything else you can think of that makes us all laugh.
At my sister’s home, they often play charades at family get-togethers.
Kids love funny faces, voices, and exaggeration.
Help Mom and Dad
Again, this will be unique to your situation and relationship. I help out with the kids when my daughter has a deadline or needs to get caught up. I like to babysit so she can have an evening out with her husband once in a while.
I remember with profound gratitude all the times my mom and mother-in-law watched my kids. I was only able to finish my graduate degree because of the help they provided.
Along with babysitting, my son-in-law’s mom, the other grandmother loves to keep the baby in diapers and both of the girls in cute clothes. She combines her “thing” shopping with keeping the girls dressed.
Value the Other Grandparents
Babies and children have enough love for everyone. It’s so tempting to want to be the “favorite” and shower your grandchild with gifts, clothes, and attention.
As a grandparent, of course you are going to do some special things with and for your grandchild, but do it out of a sense of purpose.
In our family the other grandmother loves to buy clothes and toys for the girls. I’m happy my grandchildren have such a generous and loving grandma.
I love to sit in their room and play Barbies or help them do crafts or art.
I love to sit and play with them and give them my time. It’s obvious that our grandchildren love all their grandparents. The kids don’t compare!
Share Family Traditions
My older granddaughter will sometimes ask me what Mom (my daughter) did when she was little. She loves to hear about how it was when her mom was young. We love passing on our traditions to her.
Our family is from West Virginia and even though she’s never been there, she knows how to sing Country Roads, knows how to do some Mountaineer cheers, and looks forward to the day when she’ll finally see West Virginia.
Here in Texas, we celebrate the holidays and make recipes that have been passed down for generations. I love having my family over for a meal and sitting down around the table that I sat around as a child.
I love serving favorite family foods that my mom served. We talk about the family that lives in faraway states.
Set Your Own Boundaries
Creating a relationship with your grandchildren may require setting your own boundaries.
- How much will you help out with babysitting?
- Will it be on a regular basis?
- How much will you spend on your grandchildren?
- How often will you travel and for what events?
Each of these questions requires thought and at times a conversation with the parents about their expectations.
Take Care of Yourself!
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Now you have some special people in your life, it pays off big time to be fit, healthy, and energetic.
I love being able to lift my granddaughters, go for long walks, and dance like a crazy woman on occasion.
Eat right and exercise! And for goodness sake, if you have an addiction like smoking, please do whatever it takes to quit.
As much as your grandchildren are important to you, you are important to them! Keep yourself fit and healthy.
How to Be an Awesome Grandparent?
I love being a grandparent and I think I’m a great one most of the time.
Remember build and maintain the relationship with your own child and their spouse first.
Second, be yourself and bring your own special sauce to the relationship. Third, take great care of yourself!
Keep showing up my friends,
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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.