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Grandparents are the Best Parent Support Group

When grandparents support their adult children in their new role as parents, a new bond is created and strengthened.

As parents, supporting our adult children doesn’t always look like we thought it would. My mom was mortified when she came to help during those adjustment weeks just after the birth of my first child.

“Where is the baby cereal?” She searched the cupboards.

I explained that our pediatrician recommended breast milk only until the baby was close to six months old. However, when I was born, my mom had been instructed by her pediatrician to begin rice cereal almost immediately, working up to Gerber meats within weeks. Because her doctor’s recommendation was completely opposite from the instructions commonly given to new mothers of my generation, she felt convinced my child would starve.

Flashing back to my babysitting career, I recalled when the new grandmother didn’t understand why her daughter said no to traditional Jewish chicken soup until the newborn grandbaby was older. The newly minted “bubbe keenly” felt her good intentions had been rejected.

Recently, my daughter invited me into that invitation–only grandmother club when we welcomed her first baby. Seeing that precious infant who fit perfectly in my arms, I remembered the clash of generations that occasionally caused tension between my mom and me regarding the care and feeding of my children. I went to my daughter’s home aware that how my daughter was coached by her medical team to care for her child would be different than my experience.

Romans 12:18 counsels, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” One of the quickest ways to put a wedge between generations is to hold to our ways as the best, maybe the only, way.

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Support New Parents by Building Trust

  • Ask the parent’s preference by asking, “Let me know how you want to do things.” This honors her as the parent God chose.
  • Understand there are different ways to care for children that are good. My generation laid our babies on their belly in the crib. Past wisdom was that if milk came back up while a baby slept, the baby would not choke. Current wisdom prefers babies sleep on their backs as a preventative for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Both recommendations are relevant.

Questions to Ask

  • For methods that seemed important to me, I can say, “When you were young, we did … because … ”
  • Graciously share your experience that can be helpful. “Another option you can consider is …”
  • “Are you open for feedback?” Sometimes the answer is, “No.” However, because I don’t often volunteer to offer advice, the common response is, “I know there is something you want to say, so go ahead.” “I’ll support your choice,” I begin. “And to give you additional tools as you make your decision, in my experience I’ve observed …”
  • Ask instead of tell. “Have you thought about…?” “What about …?” After being in charge for the first years of my child’s life, this shift is important and one I work at.

Often my child wants a safe place to verbally process, not someone to solve the problem. Oh, yeah. Just listen. I’m getting better at empathy. Occasionally, I have insights that may be beneficial, so I ask to speak to the situation. Treat your child as the adult they are. My goal is to speak as kindly and non-invasively to my adult child as I would to my peers.

Supporting Grandparents Set the Tone

Frequently, the difference between tension and support depends on our tone and word choice. Proverbs 15:1 describes, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

When my children were young, I trusted those who partnered with me to parent. In the same way, if I do not respect my adult child’s preferences for caring for their child, I will not be someone they easily trust with their most precious possession.

Of course, if a situation is dangerous for a child, then it is vital we take proper action. But for preferences around bedtime, diaper brands, food groups, pacifiers, and screen time honor everything you can. When you want to know why a decision has been made, ask. Typically, most parents have researched and are happy to share their discoveries and reasoning.

Naturally, I came into the role of grandmother with ideas of my own. “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children,” says Proverbs 17:6. I envisioned tea parties, adventures, music instruction, art class, reading lots of picture books, and the occasional sleepover. What I’ve learned is to flex and go.

We support our adult children as parents when we consider they have:

  • two sides of extended family to balance
  • employment demands
  • their own address which may or may not be nearby
  • their own ideas and goals for their child

Final Thoughts on Giving Parents Support

What a heart moment when my daughter phoned from the hospital and introduced my grandchild. “Can you come, Mom?”

Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. The next day when I arrived, my son-in-love laid a crying infant in my arms. “Can you get her to take a pacifier and go to sleep?” He hurried down the hall to care for his wife.

Settled in the new rocking chair, I cradled a swaddled newborn, coaxed in a pacifier, and watched the small wonder fall asleep.

Her daddy came into the room. “You’ve got skills.”

The vital end goal is found in 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Recalling what would have helped me when my children were young, helps me to be others-centered rather than self-centered. Where can I fill in and encourage? How is the Holy Spirit guiding me to love those I love most?

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