As more and more families are separating and becoming estranged so increasingly grandparents are being relied upon to step in and provide financial, emotional and practical support. In some families both parents may be working, either by choice or necessity. Help can be needed in either a hands on way, like with childcare or practical help with chores, or a hands off way, as in financial support.
The older generation, today’s grandparents, are now fitter and more active than ever before and so often will have the time, energy and means to be able to step in and fill the gaps for the family. They are often more settled and so have the time and the patience to be able to contribute and help.
An important advantage is that grandparents are able to provide a link with the past. This enables us to appreciate and understand our own history and traditions, where things originate from and why. These memories give us an insight into the emotional world of our family, where certain traits and attitudes come from and so help us to understand our parents as well as certain aspects of ourselves. These behaviours are called inter-generational learnings and are not genetic characteristics but are the attitudes and mannerisms that are often noticeable in members of the same family.
In spite of all the help and support that we may well need, certain things have to be considered when bringing grandparents into the mix.
– In most families there are often two sets of grandparents, maternal and paternal. Often after a split there can be inequalities as to how the grandparents continue to meet and mix with the new family dynamic. One set may well be excluded, whilst the other set comes to be relied upon more heavily. How does this compare to what went on before and is that fair on the grandparents and the children ?
– It is important to allow the people who are providing all this invaluable help to share the good times and not just the bad times, to be included in some of the fun and happy times, not just the chores and tough times.
– Mutual respect is a vital component to a successful relationship. This means that any disagreements occur in private and not in front of the children. Times when help is needed is booked in advance out of respect for each others time and personal commitments. Matters like discipline are agreed in advance – over things like food, bedtime, TV.
– Appreciation is important. Be thankful for the help that is given. It is a big help having laundry, cleaning, time, money provided, as well as the time and reassurance in knowing that the children are being looked after by someone who cares about them. Demonstrate how much it matters and how you value it.
Grandparents can have the luxury of a second chance with their grandchildren. They often value being able to do things how they would have liked to have done them the first time around. And this time they are not as pressurised with career and other factors. They are often not as stressed and do not have the same external distractions and concerns. They can be more paced and calmer about things that might upset or distress a younger, less experienced person.
The truth is, older people and children often get on very well. So, if there is no real grandparent living nearby why not ‘adopt’ one into the family. Many families have token aunts and uncles. A token grandparent would be a valuable addition also, and provide great benefit to the older person as well as to their new family.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist