Have a solid game plan. It can be a really helpful thing to know what to do with your grandchildren when they arrive. If you want to go on an outing, you might need to suggest certain clothing, and even ask for financial help if needed, even before the grandchildren arrive. It is also a good idea to check opening times, session times and transportation timetables to make sure that everything is sorted in advance. When you make your plan for the day, however, take some time for resting and decompressing into account, too. You don’t want your grandchild to get too tuckered out.
Try to do something with your grandkids that their parents wouldn’t normally do with them. Take them to a new part of town they haven’t seen, or teach them something their parents don’t know how to do, whether it’s watercolor painting or jewelry making. This will make your time together all the more special and memorable.
Unplan. That's right — don't make plans sometimes. Let your grandchildren see what you normally do around the house and learn by watching. Often they will be interested enough to pitch in and help you, all the while holding fascinating conversations with you. Treasure these times because they hold the essence of intergenerational bonding. They may be interested in watching you cook, helping out in the garden, walking your dog with you, or even in checking out your favorite TV show.
Your grandchildren will be used to life at their own household and will inherently be interested in the way you run yours. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create a fun day for them; it’ll happen naturally.
That said, it’s good to have a back-up activity, such as a movie to watch or a pie to bake, just in case your grandchild gets restless and really wants to do something.
Teach them about the world. Pass on your experience through your stories about what you have done and seen. Don't be afraid to share the “strangeness” of the past. To their ears it may be strange now but in the future, they will come to see your past as being as special as theirs, and in some small way, they will understand both you and humanity all the better for your having shared how life was when you grew up. You're the best record of what happened, so share it with them generously.
Tell them about your life and experiences and how they have informed your outlook. Let them know how much the world has changed since you were raised in it, what you did for a living, and which vital skills they’ll need for a successful life.
Pass on any life lessons you have learned, from how to have a happy marriage to how to manage your home. You may not want to give this information all at once or your grandchildren won’t be listening; instead, dole out this information little by little, and make sure it sticks.
Tell them to ask you any questions about your life or your past they may be curious about. The conversation doesn’t have to be one-sided.
Tell them about your family history. Though your grandchildren may not be super interested in the details of their family history when they’re younger, you should make a point of telling them about their family history so that they have a stronger sense of who they are. Sit them down with an album and show them who is who in the family lineage. Don’t just point, but make the people come alive by telling anecdotes and memorable stories about each person in your family, so your grandchildren feel invested in them even though they are long gone.
You can even take it one step further and write it down. Give your grandkids a record of their family that they can cherish for all time.
Again, some younger kids may not have the patience or interest to care about their family history yet. You can try to sneak this information into your everyday conversation and activities so that they learn the truth in little, digestible bits and pieces.
Have your grandchildren teach you something. Your relationship with your grandchild doesn’t have to be one-sided. Times are changing fast, and one thing you can do to make your grandchild feel special is to ask him or her to educate you about what’s going on in the world, from the latest trends in music to Facebook or Twitter. If you’re tech savvy, then you can ask your grandchildren to tell you about fashion or what their friends talk about, these days. Show a genuine interest in their world and they will open up to you.
People love being teachers, and your grandkids will get even more excited to hang out with you if they know that they’ll have important knowledge to share with you.
Make sure you thank them for teaching you something. Show that you appreciate their help.
Be there for the milestones. One thing you can do is to make sure that you’re there for the important moments in your grandchild’s life, from birthdays to elementary school graduations. Though you may not be able to always be there, especially if you live far away, you should make a point of being there for the important moments when you can. Your grandchildren will remember those big moments in their lives, and it’ll be important for them to remember your presence during those times.
Your grandchildren will turn to you for love and support, not criticism. Give them love and support on their big days and show them how proud you are of them, even if you would have done things differently.
Don’t forget to make time for yourself. This is something to keep in mind even before your grandchild is born. You aren't there to provide a never-ending source of babysitting and it is important to set the boundaries at the outset. Make it clear that you love your children and the grandchildren and that there are plenty of occasions for visits, but also make it clear when it is not OK to have the grandchildren staying over or being dropped off regularly. In this way, you will be able to enjoy the time spent with your grandchildren one hundred percent instead of feeling resentment or exhaustion.
Don’t assume that you’re going to be a constant babysitter and at the parents’ beck and call as soon as the baby is born. You can give them the time you want to spend, but plan for the help you’ll give in advance instead of being “on call.”
If you don’t feel like you’re forced or pressured into hanging out with your grandchild, then your relationship will be much stronger for it.
Make a big deal of them. You cannot spoil children. You can unintentionally teach them that consuming too much is a good thing, which you'd never do, right? Teach them good values, like gratitude, respect, and patience and don't overload them with “stuff”. Instead, smother them with praise. Notice all the good that they do and be vociferous and specific about it when you spot it. And give them space; children are free to be a bit less restrained when they're with you. After all, they have parents to tell them off all the time. Every time you see them, give them a big hug and let them know that you love them and they are safe with you.
Though you can criticize their behavior occasionally if they misbehave in your presence, you should focus on being a source of joy and positivity. They already live with one or two parents who want to teach them right from wrong, and while you don’t want to go against their ideas, you shouldn’t be too stringent, either.
Of course, you shouldn’t let your grandchild follow completely different rules in your presence, or he or she will be confused about which rules are “right”. Still, you should go easy on your grandchildren and focus on praising them and letting them know how special they are.
Be specific when you praise them. Saying “I love how you said thank you to Mrs. James,” rather than “I love how polite you are” will keep the child from having an undermining thought like, “Oh Grandma doesn't know how mean I was to Sally yesterday.” Specific praise will give them some solid ground on which to build their skills for living.
Remember birthdays. On their birthday, buy them presents that are thoughtful but not overdone. Sometimes give them what they ask for; other times put a little surprise in the wrapping paper that they didn't expect. The most important thing is that you’re there for them on their big day and that you let them know how much you love them. Write them a card letting them know how much they mean to you in addition to giving them a gift.
Just make sure to check in with the parents before giving the grandchild a gift. You don’t want your gift to upstage the parents’ gift, or to be too similar too it. That could make for an awkward birthday.
Be affectionate. Another way to show your love to your grandchildren is to shower them with affection. Give them hugs and kisses, put your arm around them, play with their hair, or just give them a reassuring touch to show them that you care. When you sit next to them, pat their knee or their hand, or just get close to show your love to them. As they get older, they may not be open to as much affection, but you should make a point of showering them with love.
Be a source of love and warmth to your grandchildren, so they know that they can come to you when they need comfort.
Listen to your grandchildren. Take the time to hear what they have to say, and to listen to every word without interrupting. Don’t be distracted and take the time to hear them out, instead of having them talk while you’re cooking or tending to your garden. Make eye contact and let them know how much you care without giving advice until they ask for it. The most important thing is that you don’t judge them and take what they say seriously.
Sometimes, your grandkids may tell you things they don’t even tell their parents. Help them out as best you can, but let them know that there may be cases where their parents should know what’s on their mind, too.
Be affectionate when they talk to you. Put an arm around them or place a hand on their knee to reassure them.
Spoil your grandkids a little. You already went through parenthood and had to work on disciplining your children. Now, you can relax a little and focus on having fun with your grandkids. Though some rules will need to be enforced, especially if your grandkids stay with you for a prolonged period of time, such as a summer vacation, you should work on giving your grandkids treats, making them feel special, and even letting them have that extra cookie once in a while. They should come to you for love, not to have you lay down the law.
Of course, you shouldn’t spoil them to the point where their parents are annoyed at how much flexibility you’re giving them. Find a way to make both your grandchildren and their parents happy.
Don’t give advice unless it is solicited. Even if you’ve raised 15 children successfully and feel like you know everything there is to know about parenting, you’re going to have to seal your lips unless you’re asked for advice. Your child and his or her spouse may have some different ideas about how to raise children, and they may not want to hear every little thing you have to say about the subject. Of course, they may call upon your expertise, but you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to tell them how to do every last thing, from how to change a diaper to how to help their child grow into a responsible adult.
If you give the parents too much advice, they may pull back from you, leading to a more tense relationship between you and your grandchild.
Accept your role in your grandchild’s life. To succeed as a grandparent, you should accept the fact that you are the grandparent, not the parent in the child’s life. Your role is to spend time with your grandchild, give advice and help to the parents when it’s needed, and to be there for the new addition to your family. The sooner you accept that you are not the grandchild’s mother, the sooner you can be on to enjoying your own unique relationship.
You shouldn’t focus on disciplining your grandchild and teaching him or her how to be an adult. Focus more on giving love, care, and support.
Maintain your own life. You may think that you should drop everything as soon as your grandson or granddaughter arrives, but the best thing you can do is to maintain your own life while helping out the parents of the grandchild as much as you can. You want to continue having your own friends, your own social commitments, and your own hobbies if you want to succeed as a grandparent. If you drop absolutely everything to be with your grandchild, then you will be putting too much pressure on the parents.
Find a way to fit spending time with your grandchildren into your schedule without making your schedule entirely revolve around your grandchildren and the whims of their parents. Of course, there may be times when they need some last-minute help, but you shouldn’t leave your schedule wide open just in case that happens.
Help the parents out around the house. One thing you can definitely do when there’s a new addition to your family, or even when your grandchild gets older, is to help the parents out around the house when you can. You can wash dishes, pick up groceries, occasionally cook meals, or run small errands for the father or the mother when you have time. Though you shouldn’t have to turn into their housekeeper when they have a child, helping out around the house in little ways when you have the time can make a big difference.
This can be especially helpful when your grandchild is just born and the parents are overwhelmed by their parenting duties.
Give your grandchild’s parents time to bond. Sometimes, the thing that your child’s parents will need the most is some time alone together. While being around during family activities, celebrations, or trips can give them a helping hand, you can also find some time to be alone with your grandchild or grandchildren so that their parents can have some time to go out to dinner together or just to relax without their usual responsibilities for a little while. This can help relieve stress and to keep the parents’ relationship strong.
Give mom and dad at least one or two date nights a month. They may deny that they really need this time together, but you should stress that it’s important for them to spend time together away from their child.