If you’re lucky enough to have been blessed with grandchildren, you know how much of a joy they can be in your life. In retirement, being involved in the lives of your grandchildren can be an uplifting role that fills us with a renewed purpose while we work through a new phase of our lives.
I love my grandchildren and have been fortunate enough to maintain loving relationships with them and with my adult children. Still, like anything worthwhile, it takes effort to find a rhythm that works for everyone and allows those relationships to flourish. Being a grandparent isn’t without its challenges. If you’re just starting this wonderful journey, there are a few things you should be prepared to sort out beforehand:
To spoil or not to spoil?
That is the question. The impulse to spoil is a difficult one to resist. We see our grandchildren and we’re overcome with a desire to make them happy. In our window of time together we want them to have as much fun with us as possible; we want to make as many lasting memories with them as we possibly can. Especially in the few short years when they are young. At least, that’s my experience. The reality is that we need to defer to their parents on gifts—big and small, weekend outings, etc. You want to be able to spoil them from time to time—and hopefully a little more frequently than Mom and Dad—but there are other ways we can build relationships with our grandchildren. Embrace a role as family historian and share your stories. Cook with them and share family recipes. This is quality time without any material returns that no one should have any problem with.
Finding the visit balance.
This can definitely get complicated, especially if you live close to your grandkids. Obviously, we want to see our grandkids as frequently as possible, but unless our presence is welcome, we’re going to create tension with Mom and Dad, who are ultimately the gatekeepers. We want to avoid being helicopter grandparents, and we want to keep the visits special so that the grandkids associate our visits with fun and positivity. We don’t want forced interactions that put a strain on everyone. Conversely, if you live far away, finding the time and scheduling visits can be a real challenge. You can’t just pop over if an afternoon opens up, and being called for babysitting duty is off the table. The longing to be near our grandchildren is exacerbated if the other grandparents are closer and are able to share more quality time together. Make visits a priority and try to schedule them with your kids as far in advance as possible—consider agreeing to standing monthly visits. Whatever allows for spending regular time with your grandkids, I promise, is worth it.
Accepting parenting differences.
This is a big hurdle. One of the perks of being a grandparent is that you don’t have to be overly concerned with the day-to-day minutiae of raising the kids. You just get to have all the fun! Of course, you want to impart some of your values and make sure that the next generation of your family is raised well, but you need to cede the majority of the responsibility to Mom and Dad, and trust that they are doing right by you and your grandchildren. With that, you might notice differences in parenting styles such that it becomes hard to resist speaking up. But you must. A side conversation might be more appropriate. Trying to gain an understanding of how your child is choosing to parent can be very valuable so that you can then appropriately step in when needed. Avoid challenging Mom and Dad in front of the grandchildren, though. That’s a fast-track to being shut-out for a little while. And no one wants that.
Especially if you live near your grandkids, you might be asked to wear a lot of different hats in the course of your relationship. Ideally, we could always be the fun-loving grandparent whose visits are always met with excitement, but the modern family has needs that you might not have faced when raising your children. With both parents working, Mom and Dad might depend on you for childcare while they’re at work. That relationship to your grandkids can—and needs to—be very different. It doesn’t mean you need to be a fulltime taskmaster, just be willing to go back and forth between roles, always keeping things fun and positive.
Don’t overextend yourself. Our grandchildren impart us with a renewed energy, but we wear down like anyone else. Don’t sacrifice your health in your attempt to be a super grandparent. Knowing when you’re at your limit and when to tell Mom and Dad that you need a break is key. We want to always be at our best during the precious time we get to spend with our grandkids. Anything less will not maximize our enjoyment or the fun our grandkids can have with us. We need to be able to keep up, and that can mean being able to take some time off for ourselves.
Being involved in the lives of our grandchildren is a powerful way that we can impact the next generation and leave a legacy that counts. Part of that should also be leaving a better world to our grandchildren. My financial philosophy advises planned charitable giving as a means to build a better world and build your legacy. Are you ready to get started? My free assessment: http://patrickrenn.com/making-legacy-count/