Grandparents: do you need to worry about your grandchildren?

Being a grandparent has its joys, but it’s also normal to worry about your grandchildren.

But you probably have no need to worry if your grandchildren’s parents are making well-informed decisions that are right for their family. The decisions they make about behaviour, discipline, independence, media, friendships and so on might be different from the decisions you’d make. But this doesn’t mean these decisions are wrong.

It can help to remember that your grandchildren are being raised in a different world from the one you were raised in. And their parents are probably raising them differently from the way you raised your children. Our articles and videos on parenting can give you a sense of how parents today think about parenting decisions.

If you take into account parenting differences and you’re still worried, it might help to talk about your concerns with your partner or a friend who’s also a grandparent. Other points of view can help you decide whether you need to talk about the issue with your grandchildren’s parents.

If you need help or want to get help for your grandchildren or their parents, you could get in touch with support services.

There are no disagreements because they’re not my children. I don’t think it helps parents to be undermined. I might sometimes think, ‘Oh gosh, they should have done that differently’. But I don’t say anything. They’re intelligent people and they’ll work it out.
– Catherine, grandmother of children aged three and seven years

When you’re worried: tips for talking with your grandchildren’s parents

If there’s an issue you feel you must raise with your grandchildren’s parents, there are a few things that can help the conversation go well – preparation, timing, respect and perspective.

Preparation
Rehearsing what you want to say can help you find a good way to say it. For example, ‘I've noticed that Joe doesn’t seem to hear me when I’m behind him. Have you noticed that too?’ Sometimes it helps to practise what you want to say with your partner or a friend.

Timing
If you think it’s likely to be a tricky conversation, it can help to choose a calm and private time for both you and your grandchildren’s parents. For example, if they’re busy with work and family commitments during the week, a weekend time might be better.

Respect
Your grandchildren’s parents are almost certainly doing the best they can for their children. A tricky conversation will probably go better if you can show you respect their parenting and experience.

If your concern is about managing a grandchild’s behaviour, it can help to tell your child what happened and then ask for advice. For example, ‘Zoe kept taking her shoes off at the playground and got upset when I asked her to put them back on. What do you find works to get her to keep them on?’

Everyone loves praise. Balancing your concerns with praise for your grandchildren and their parents can help you all focus on the positives. For example, ‘Giorgio has learned that game very quickly. You’ve got a real knack for explaining things to him’.

Understanding boundaries is a part of respect too. You can express a concern, but it’s the responsibility of your grandchildren’s parents to decide what to do about it.

Perspective
If you have a good relationship with your grandchildren’s parents, you could try asking general questions to get a sense of how they see the situation you’re worried about. For example, ‘Have other parents in your mother’s group had this problem?’ or ‘Did your child and family health nurse mention anything at the last appointment?’

If you think your grandchildren are at risk of abuse or neglect, talk with your grandchildren’s parents about your concerns. If you think there are serious problems of violence or neglect in your grandchildren’s home and you need advice, you can get help and information by ringing a parenting hotline.

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