I’m not a grandparent yet. I’m a mom to five children 11 and under. Parenting continues to be the biggest wake up call and self-development course of my life. I have written this open letter to grandparents, outlining six ways for grandparents to help their adult kids be the best parents they can be, because the support (or lack of) provided by one’s parents while learning to parent can be a very influential factor in the lives of everyone involved.
Since many new parents are used to respecting their elders (at least somewhat), it may be difficult at times to speak up for what we now believe and choose in parenting. It may also be uncomfortable for some grandparents to really see their kids grow up and nurture their own young. I write this in the spirit of sharing perspectives that can bring everyone together so grandparent-parent-child relationships can be as beneficial as possible. For this to happen though, grandparents, you may consider being open to what I am about to say. As you have probably told your kids growing up, please just listen and trust what I am telling you.
We are really growing up now! If we have produced children, the responsibility is with us to nurture them. Please start by accepting us the way we are – right here and now (repeat moment-by-moment).
If we are doing things differently than you as parents, this does not necessarily mean that you did it wrong, bad, or in some other way reflect on you. Sure, you might want us to do it your way, but we have to learn what works for us and our families now. We are who we are and we would like to nurture a healthy grandparent relationship with you, too. Thank you for considering to embrace one of the most powerful tools in relationships and life – inner acceptance of what is. We are who we are and really appreciate your acceptance of us.
New parents need space to figure out how they want to parent. It’s our turn now. For 18+ years you were the person in the position of authority; we listened to you (even when we were plugging our ears saying “la la la” or didn’t follow your advice). We heard you and we watched you. As we grow into the parents we are, your ability to neutrally observe us as adults, finding our own inner authority as we nurture our young, allows us all the space necessary to grow into our new roles.
Watch us with our babies and children. Notice how we are choosing to parent. Notice when we struggle and instead of inserting something that worked for you, consider asking how we feel, what we want for our parenting experience, and if we need any help. Notice how we enjoy parenting and what new developments may be occurring for us and our families.
We are likely to share with you many of the challenges and excitements we experience as parents. Remember how you preferred that we not tout back when you talked to us? Well, this could go a long way in this relationship, too. Listen, just listen. Hear what we have to say. As an extension of neutrally observing us in our new and developing roles, listen to what we find important, interesting, and of value. Ask us questions to learn more. Ask where you can find more information about our parenting ideas. Are there books you can read or articles that will help you understand further?
If you are unsure about something we are doing, ask. If you are concerned about an approach we are taking, ask with curiosity. If you feel we are harming our young, see if this is because the way we parent is different from the way you parented or if we are really engaging in harmful actions. If we are, by all means come to us with your concerns in heart and ask if you can help in any way.
Show your genuine interest in us by receiving what we share and doing your part to learn more about our choices. Many of us write blogs, articles, or keep social media accounts where you can learn more about us and the ways we choose to parent. For those who don’t, we can probably direct you to an organization or resource that has more information. Pick up a book that we like at your local library and take a peek into our world. Through you interacting with other parents or information on the subjects we find of value, it is likely we can have some really interesting conversations about life and parenting.
Have fun with us, the kids, and your new role, too. Even though this letter may seem mostly about what we want from you, we also want for you to enjoy being a grandparent. Witnessing you enjoy your experience with the kids makes our hearts sing. Engage yourself in being part of our lives, contributing to the sense of joy and wonder that parenting brings, with room to grow along the way.
Now it’s okay to be our friend. We’re quite sure someone told you not to do that when we were under your roof, but now we need your support. A major downfall in grandparent-parent relationships can be attributed to the new parents not feeling supported. A sense that we just can’t be enough in your eyes may linger from childhood a bit and now’s the time to heal it and move forward. We are enough; so are you.
As generations evolve, there are bound to be changes from one to the next. We all have ideas about parenting when we come to the task. If we say we don’t want to spank, look into alternatives with us and support us in using them. If we choose to home school, do your part to consider the benefits and support our choices. Maybe you can even teach a class to the grandkids. If we make some other seemingly off-the-wall choices, support our ability to choose wisely.
Consider appreciation as another way to support us, the kids, and yourself. Make a list of what you appreciate about us and the grandparent experience, focusing on what you notice often. Allow the positives to shine in your experience and share your joys with us.
Maybe most of all, we can benefit from your trust. The trust that we are finding our way, that we care deeply for our children, you, ourselves, the world, and are doing the very best we can (even when we struggle). Trust that we will probably have to make many mistakes to learn lessons in parenting that you could totally say “I told you so” about – but please don’t. Trust us to learn now that we are adults.
Trust us to meet the task of parenting with the necessary amounts of commitment, determination, surrender, and love it takes to nurture young into adults. Trust us to ask for help when we need it, to grow as we learn, and to look to you for assistance when we feel that is helpful. Trust us to be who we are and yet to aspire to something more, simply because we have a new generation looking to us for an example.
Trust your love for us, our love for our young, and the power of love in general. Let all conditions fall away from the love you feel for us and the children, and just trust. We still value you, just in different ways, maybe even bigger ways than when we were the kids. Let’s all rise up to the challenges because we really are in this together.