How To Be A Successful Grandparent

Written by Kathy Watson

Don't turn the birth of your first grandchild into a crisis. Learn how to make it a joyous occasion for everyone.

In the final frantic hours before my first daughter's birth 21 years ago, the last person I wanted to see was my mother-in-law. Things had been a little tense between us since I declined to let her do my laundry.

Suddenly, there she was at the foot of my bed, consoling her son who looked so tired.

"Why don't you let us take you out to dinner?" she asked.

What made your grandparents special? Adapt those habits in your grandparenting.
Build positive relationships with the parents-to-be: They'll be the "gatekeepers" to your grandchild.
If you blew it as a parent, your kids may give you a second chance with their children, if you demonstrate you've learned from your mistakes.
Plan a ceremony, plant a tree or cook a special meal to welcome home your new grandchild.
"Out!" I screeched. Women in labor are a cranky lot.

But my own mother: Was I happy to see her. When we came home from the hospital and Annie started crying, I just handed her the baby and went back to bed.

There you have it: two perfectly well-meaning mothers, one set of new parents, and a bawling child. A crisis in the making.

When your daughter or son gives birth to your first grandchild, you want to be there, don't you? Right in the delivery room. And then you want to go home and scrub your daughter-in-law's kitchen floor and rock the baby to sleep. You just want to help.

Not so fast, says Allan Zullo, author with his wife, Kathryn, of The Nanas and the Papas: A Boomers' Guide to Grandparenting. A little planning, long before the baby comes, can help you become a successful first-time grandparent who is welcomed and appreciated.

First, says Zullo, sit down with the parents-to-be and talk about it.

"Tell them, 'This is the role I'd like to play. Can I do it?' Ask, 'What is it I can do to help? How can I fit in?' Some new parents will want advice, some won't. Just talk it out. It clears the air."

Remember, too, that parenting changes from generation to generation. We parented with Dr. Spock as our only guide, but parents today are barraged with new information.

"You've got to be on the same page as the new parent," says Zullo, a two-time grandfather. "The things that worked for us back then, don't now. We fed baby aspirin and put them on their stomachs. Find out what your kids are reading."

In a few years, it will be Annie in that labor room and me at the foot of the bed. If we talk about it before, I'll know just what to do.

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