5 Grandparenting Myths Debunked

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Most Parents Are Eager to Become Grandparents

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We've all heard about parents who are hungry for grandchildren and put pressure on their children to reproduce. There is, however, another side to the coin. Some parents just can't see themselves as grandparents. This may be because we associate grandparents with aging, although the average age of becoming a grandparent in the United States is a relatively youthful 47.

Sometimes parents resist grandparenthood because they have concerns about the readiness of their children to become parents. They could be concerned about finances or simply a lack of maturity.

In addition, all major life transitions carry some stress and may be resisted by those who tend to resist change.

If It Happens

It's perfectly okay to be resistant to becoming a grandparent, but if circumstances overtake you, it's best to hide your doubts. Be as enthusiastic as possible about the prospect, and you won't lose points with the parents-to-be. Besides, it's likely that it will be love at first sight when you actually see your first grandchild.

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All Grandparents Spoil Their Grandchildren

Do grandparents have a license to spoil? Some aren't interested. Jupiter Images / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Instead of spoiling their grandchildren, some grandparents believe that they are already overindulged. We are often concerned that our grandchildren:

  • Watch too much TV or play too many video games
  • Eat too many treats
  • Have too many toys
  • Get everything that they ask for.

Most grandparents enjoy giving their grandchildren gifts. We'd just like to be sure that our gifts don't get lost in a massive mountain of other stuff. In addition, some of us are concerned that our grandchildren are being raised in too permissive a fashion. Those are among the things that grandparents would like to say to parents, but many of us will judge it wiser to refrain from saying them.

What Grandparents Can Do

Sure, give a little extra love when it is needed, but don't be afraid to be a non-indulgent grandparent. Your grandchildren will love you just as much, especially if you give that most precious gift — your time.

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Grandparents Love to Spend Time With Their Grandchildren

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Although many grandparents never get enough time with their grandchildren, a few might respond that they have too much time with their grandchildren. Most of these are grandparents who have taken on child-rearing or child-care responsibilities out of necessity.

Still, many grandparents in all situations treasure their time alone or with a spouse. In one survey of grandparents done in Northern Ireland, 39% agreed with the statement, "Now my own children have grown up I want a life that is free from too many family duties." Some grandparents want to concentrate on their marital relationships. Some want to travel. Others are enjoying new avocations. Sometimes their new interests cause them to be labeled as uninvolved grandparents, but most often the grandparents manage a good balance in their lives.

Although they may enjoy time away from their grandchildren, that doesn't keep them from suffering from grandparent guilt.

How to Handle It

Don't be afraid to set some limits and boundaries.Specify when you are available for visits and babysitting, and when you will be busy. Try to be on hand for birthdays and special occasions. Try to be present for the highlights of your grandchldren's school events and extra-curricular activities, but don't feel that you have to attend every swim meet or school bazaar. 

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Grandparents and Grandchildren Have a Natural Bond

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Like most things that are worth having, good relationships with grandchildren require some work. While many grandparents report bonding almost instantaneously with their newborn grandchildren, some confess that the relationship was rocky at first. (Sometimes a grandchild doesn't seem to like a grandparent!)

Special problems face long-distance grandparents, who often find that they have to re-establish their relationship each time that they visit. Grandparents of teenagers often report that maintaining a relationship is hard work due to the busy schedules of their grandchildren and the demands of their peer relationships. Indeed, by the time some grandchildren are tweens, grandparents may feel that they are boring their grandchildren.

How to Make It Work

The bottom line is that grandparenting is like most other relationships: It requires work.

Also, most grandparent-grandchild relationships go through stages of being close and not so close. Don't panic during the not-so-close eras. Don't whine or guilt trip your grandchildren. That will just push them further away. Just keep doing those little things that have kept you close over the years. 

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Grandparents Should Mind Their Own Business

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Grandparenting books often tell grandparents not to offer advice unless it's asked for, and that is generally good counsel. Still, 80% of grandparents say that they feel "very comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable" offering child-rearing advice to their children, and 95% are comfortable giving advice to their grandchildren, according to AARP's Grandparent Survey. In the same survey 74% of the grandparents reported that the parents of their grandchildren asked for advice about the grandchildren at least once a year.

What the Statistics Mean

Those statistics seem to show that grandparents can give their opinions in a variety of instances, as long as they do so tactfully.

It's helpful to know which decisions that grandparents have the right to make and which areas are out of your domain. It's even more important to know how your adult children feel about being offered advice. And it's also important to know how to give it.

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Grandparents May Have Misconceptions, Too

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Parenting has changed a lot since grandparents were parents. Many traditional ways have been left behind. Also, doctors and other authorities have new insights about how best to raise a child. The articles listed below can help you understand some updated guidelines for child-rearing and some of the new parenting ideas. The more you know, the better grandparent you will be.