When your children have their own children, this oftentimes brings with it great joy and excitement. It also brings with it a new role and identity for yourself, that of a grandparent. In this blog we will be exploring what it means to be a grandparent and how this role can support in raising your children’s children.
The grandparent as a source of support
In Malta, grandparents are often tasked with supporting the young family by giving time and energy to the grandchildren while the parents are at work or busy running errands. Although this is not a role you should feel obliged to take on, it is one that allows you an opportunity to build a close relationship with your grandkids.
Clashing of parenting norms
As times go by, different parenting norms evolve. As a result, what you think is the best way to raise children may be different from the way that your children might want to raise their children. As a grandparent, your role is that of supporting the parenting style adopted by the child’s parents. The parents might choose to bring up their children in a disciplinary style and encourage manners that not only differ from the way you would have chosen to tackle them, but perhaps ones that you do not approve of. For this reason, it is highly supportive to have an open-minded line of communication between yourself and your children on how to interact with their children. Although this does not mean that you should not voice your opinions and concerns, after all, they might be perspectives your own child did not think of, at the end of the day, the parenting style taken on would ideally be the one adopted by the child’s parents, unless otherwise specified.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries
Parenting requires a certain level of consistency. As you may have learnt from your own experience of being a parent, this can be challenged by others who are well-meaning yet in the end are not being supportive. This could be a position that you find yourself in when looking after your grandchildren. In order to avoid this, make sure to set clear expectations of what behaviour is to be acceptable and where boundaries lie, both with the parents as well as the children themselves. Respecting the parents’ wishes will support all relationship dynamics because it allows for everyone to feel secure with one another.
Disciplining your grandchild
Having a healthy line of communication with the parents will also support you in how you should discipline the children. Nonetheless, the following are some basic tips that can support you in disciplining grandchildren: praise behaviour that is positive and that you want to encourage; when a child is not behaving in an appropriate manner, use a level voice to reprimand the child and instead of using punishment try removing privileges such as watching TV or giving a time-out to calm down. When you are unsure of what to do, it is always supportive to seek the advice of the parents. This will not only make you respect the boundaries they set but also enhance your relationship in your new roles.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Diproperzio, L. (2014). How to deal with pushy parents (Yours!). Explore Parents. https://www.parents.com/parenting/dynamics/grandparents/how-to-deal-with-your-pushy-parents/
Mostafavi, B. (2020). Half of parents report butting heads with child’s grandparent over parenting. Michigan Health. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/half-of-parents-report-butting-heads-childs-grandparent-over-parenting
Stanford children. (n.d.). Let your children raise their kids. Stanford Children. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=let-your-children-raise-their-kids-1-2281