Grandparent wisdom and advice can benefit your child. By the year 2030 30% of the US population will be over age 65. Although many things have changed since grandparents raised children many things have not. Grandparents can be the best models, mentors and memory keepers for a family. They can also be intrusive, rash and judgmental. Every parent must recognize the perils of this generation gap while at the same time understanding the wisdom and experience grandparents provide.
Whether you are a parent or a grandparent your goal is to keep your child safe. It is important for parents and grandparents to avoid confrontations that can lead to resentment. Advice from grandparents often feels judgmental. Grandparents must be cautious not to intrude or interfere in the decisions their children make about raising their own child. Many times useful information is presented in ways that cause friction and wounds that are difficult to heal.
Parents must take the time to explain to their parents why they want things done differently in the past. Choose your battles carefully and focus on what is important rather than engaging in a battle for control. By explaining why you want something done differently you will be better able to engage your parents in a dialog concerning the care of their grandchild. This dialog will allow you to address the concerns of the grandparent rather than just telling them what you want done. Always seek middle ground and compromise on minor issues. On important issues always focus on the health and safety of your child and stand firm about the boundaries you set and the decisions you make.
Parents and grandparents must both learn how to suppress their egos. Many Grandparents view parents as children rather than as adults worthy of respect and parents view parenting advice from grandparents as intrusive and interfering. A parental “it is now my turn” mentality leads to discord and inevitable differences in opinion and prevents the development of reciprocal respect.
Parents must be flexible and at the same time set clear boundaries concerning the care of their child. Grandparents must find the balance between sharing their experience and wisdom while not interfering and avoiding rash judgment and hostility. When parents and grandparents recognize each has a unique perspective to share the value of personal opinions increases.
Some things that need to be discussed include safety issues, discipline and technology. Smoke avoidance is very important. Infants and children of all ages should not be exposed to tobacco smoke. When placed in a crib a “back to sleep” position should always be used. Infants must not be overdressed since overheating increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The crib should be free of all toys and bumper pads are not needed. The mattress should be firm and there should be no loose cords that could lead to entanglement and strangulation. Baby powder and fragrances should be avoided and breastfeeding is best. Supplemental food should not be introduced until 6 months of age. A rear facing car seat is best until age 2 years and a bedtime bottle should be avoided. Infants under 6 months of age cannot be spoiled. If an infant under this age is crying a cry it out (CIO) approach is not appropriate.
Eating patterns have also changed. Portions should be small and never encourage children to clean their plate if they are no longer hungry. A better response is to decrease future portions. For discipline positive redirection and antecedent management have replaced negative punishment. Finally technology is moving forward rapidly. Technology is now imbedded within the lives of children. The focus should be on setting healthy boundaries concerning the use of technology rather than on avoidance and negative comments about the hazards and dangers of technology.