Your job as a new grandparent is to just be there and let your kids know that you are more than willing to give your opinion whenever they want it.
By DR. BATYA L. LUDMANDear Dr. Batya,
We eagerly awaited our first grandchild's arrival thinking of all the invaluable tips we could pass on, only to hear that our tried and true learning from raising our own children has been replaced by books, hospital advice and specialists. Some of the "new-age" baby care seems ridiculous. Should we say something?
- G.B., Jerusalem
Congratulations on becoming new grandparents. There is a fine line that runs between being respected or even appreciated and being ignored. It's not that what you have to say is not important, because it is. More likely, your kids just can't hear you right now. Don't give up. This takes time.
For now, they may think that information written in a book has greater value than that given by loving friends or family. New parents can get totally overwhelmed by all the well-meaning people giving them advice, and they need to learn how to filter out the good from the bad information they receive. This takes time and self-confidence; neither are characteristics of first-time parents. New parents need to learn to trust their own intuition; this improves as they get to know their own baby and his particular needs.
Most of us, as parents, learned to raise our children in our own way and, as necessary, consulted our parents and sometimes books to ensure that we were on the right track. That said, as we look at how our own parents parented, there is much that we would not agree with today. Babies were fed on a fixed schedule whether they were hungry or not, put to bed on their tummies and were often left to cry for fear of "spoiling" them.
Remember how you felt in those first few months with your first child. Everyone had something to say. You may have been told you were feeding your baby too much, that he was put on solids too soon or not soon enough, that he was dressed too warmly or not warmly enough. Everyone had a solution for making your baby sleep better, eat better or be less colicky. You may have wanted to ignore everyone, but lack of confidence may have left you feeling weak and weepy.
Now, your own child also needs to learn to trust herself in her parenting. As she feels more competent, it will be easier to hear how others have done things. She will start to ask for your input and actually value it. Well-educated parents can feel incredibly incompetent as their life is turned completely upside down with a crying newborn. It takes time for parents and children to get to know and understand each other's rhythms and routines and while you as a grandparent may know what might work best, they may have to learn the "dance" on their own.
Your job as a new grandparent is to just be there and let your kids know that you are more than willing to give your opinion whenever they want it but that you will try hard not to interfere. They may do things differently from you and may make a few mistakes along the way. They may not ask for your advice but they certainly can use your love and support. Ask your children how you can help. You can buy groceries, prepare or order food, help clean or even run an errand or two so that parents and new baby can have more time together. If you focus on mom and dad, they will appreciate your support and will ultimately ask your advice on baby things.
Having my mother-in-law simply check on our baby so that we could grab an hour's nap without worry was a gift I haven't forgotten 22 years later. At some point, your children may trust you enough to have you look after their precious bundle without them being around. Armed with their lists of dos and don'ts, try to remember how you felt when you first entrusted your baby to someone else. Raising a baby is a tremendous challenge and responsibility. Fortunately, nature helps out by making sure the baby smiles just when a new parent has reached maximum frustration.
Most grandparents think that having a new baby is absolutely wonderful. They forget the sleepless nights, the pure exhaustion and the inability to get anything done. Being there to give support and help out as needed helps your child become a great parent.
Since no universities teach parents how to parent, much of the learning is acquired on the job. While mistakes will be made along the way, in the end you may be pleasantly shocked to see that much of your own parenting is reflected in your child's parenting. Perhaps the best advice is that which is silently absorbed.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Raemail@example.com
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