Looking forward to the birth of your first grandchild? Here’s what to expect before and after baby comes home.
The arrival of a new grandchild is celebrated by all generations of a family. But the joy can be marred by tension if grandparents overstep their bounds – or don’t do as much as the new parents expect.
Keep the lines of communication open
To avoid conflict, it’s important to establish guidelines about your role even before the baby is born. Talk to the parents-to-be about their expectations. If you live far away, do they want you to be there for the birth? Or would they rather you come after a week or two? Don’t be offended if they would rather delay your visit. Some couples prefer to bond with the new baby before inviting family and friends over.
Also discuss how involved the parents expect you to be in your grandchild’s life. Do you live nearby? Would you like to babysit regularly? What do the parents think about your “spoiling” a baby with toys and gifts?
When you do spend time with the baby, especially early on, try not to take over the role of parent. It may be tempting to offer advice, but doing so without being asked can create tension. Only give your opinion when the new parents ask for it, but always offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.
How grandparents can help the new family
There are many ways to make life a little easier for the new parents when you visit. You may think that offering to hold, change, or feed the baby is helping. But the truth is that most new parents would rather do these things themselves at first as they get to know their new baby. Here are other ways to show your support:
- Be the secretary. Offer to answer calls from well-wishers so parents can enjoy time with the baby or sneak in a nap. You could also address and stamp envelopes for birth announcements or thank-you cards.
- Help around the house. Lighten the new parents’ load by pitching in with laundry, dishes, or making a meal or two. This way they can focus on the baby.
- Support a nursing mother. Even if you didn’t breast-feed your children, you can still help out a mom who does. Help her get comfortable before a feeding and bring her a glass of water and a snack while she’s nursing. Don’t offer to give the baby a bottle, though – doing so can compromise a new mom’s milk supply.
- Run errands. Make a quick trip to the bank, grocery store, or pharmacy. Want to score extra points with the new parents? Pick up a package of diapers or wipes (or dinner!) while you’re out.
- Be the photographer. Parents are usually the ones with the cameras in their hands. Offer to take pictures of the whole family and have them take some of you with your new grandchild, of course.
Prepare your own house
Keeping certain essentials at your house will make it easier for mom and dad when they come over. A play-yard that doubles as a bassinet will provide a safe place for baby to sleep. Keep a small package of diapers and wipes on hand, just in case. As baby gets older, be sure to baby-proof the rooms in your home before visits. Always check that the gear and toys you have on hand are age-appropriate and have not been recalled. (Check the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for up-to-date recall information.)
Stay in touch
If you live far away from your grandchildren, send pictures of yourself in a baby-friendly plastic photo album. You could also record spoken messages on the computer or make videos of yourselves so baby can get to know the sound of your voices.
In return, ask for lots of pictures, videos, e-mails, and other updates. Staying connected to your grandchildren in this way will help foster a bond that will grow as they do.