Being a parent is great but challenging. But being a grandparent is simply great to the power of 10!
The feeling that our hearts have expanded beyond measure is a common but overwhelming experience at the birth of a grandchild. Many are taken aback if not stunned that they could fall in love so quickly with this newborn.
Thinking about one’s role as a grandparent can be a “weighty issue.”
Interactions with grandchildren and their parents are opportunities to rethink our own mental models. Emerging self-knowledge liberates us to see the meaning of parenting in a different light. As grandparents, we bring a broadened perspective that helps us relate to our grandchildren with greater comfort, understanding, and compassion. The more we know ourselves the more clearly we can know them. When a child’s needs are paramount in a grandparent’s mind, their time together is interpreted by the child as love. Grandparents also are in the highly desirable position to impart knowledge, teach “life lessons” and share family stories, values, and guided exposure to new learning experiences.
Regarding the temptation to offer sage parenting advice to your children a good rule of thumb is “don’t” unless asked, and then only with care and caution. Violation of these guidelines are likely to be quickly followed by a humbling reminder that they are in fact the parents and responsible for guiding the direction of their children’s lives. And, they are quite right! All of this is of course influenced by the family’s communication style. With an exception for issues involving health and safety, advice is best offered when asked for and then only as a suggestions for consideration. There is always something new to learn. With these broad guidelines in mind, watching your own children parent their children can be one of life’s great joys.
Grandparents who love their role often make quick and meaningful connections with each other. Becoming a grandparent can be like being a member of a very special and ever growing club, where new members add to the abundance by their own sharing. For instance, complete strangers who may hear other grandparents talking about their grandchildren often feel free to join in, offering photos, anecdotes, and stories as evidence of their membership. Once engaged the wonder of being a grandparent energizes conversations among members and can even create a foundation for potential relationships.
Each of us secretly believes we have the greatest grandchild on earth. The good news is that this is not too far from the truth; especially when they enjoy the purity and innocence of early childhood and still believe that all things are possible for them. One of the great responsibilities of adult life is to re-learn this great truth for a second time.
A baby learns to trust parents, grandparents, and caregivers to the extent that each has demonstrated that they can read, interpret and meet their needs. It is equally important to listen to your internal cues and offer trust, compassion and forgiveness to yourself as well so your path towards greater self-knowledge will continue to illuminate potential paths in your grandchildren’s lives.
Happy Grandparents Day
Jean V. Anton,LMHC