This blog post was originally published on Aug 20, 2013

There’s something very special about grandparents and their role in their grandkids’ lives. Feeling less pressure about raising the kids “right”, enforcing discipline, early morning baby feedings and diaper changes, and going through often challenging teenage years, grandparents get to connect with children differently than they did with their own. But what do they really mean in your kids and teens’ lives?

Grandparents are an important part of grandchildren’s history

The family’s past, how things were back when they were kids, and a wealth of information about their own parents and grandparents all make for incredible history lessons and endless story time.

Grandparents can help with discipline – or not!

I’ve met parents who either praise or confide about struggles they face, not only with their own parents, but also with their in-laws (oh the stereotype – shocking!). It’s a tricky subject to approach. Feeling a sense of guilt if their parents are helping with childcare during the day or babysitting in the evenings, or not wanting to hurt their feelings, it’s no wonder this is a conversation many parents often try to avoid. How to go about it?

Set some ground rules, so to speak

Similar to raising children, decide early on with your spouse what it is you will accept and will not budge on when it comes to your parents’ involvement in caring/helping with raising your children. Are you okay with your authority being undermined in front of your children if they disagree with your disciplinary action or house rules being bent when grandma and grandpa come to visit?

Share some of your struggles (bring them onto the same page)

Your parents have been there before – they raised you, didn’t they? Although times have changed and parents today face a whole different slew of challenges, your parents still have years of parenting experience and could help guide you or at least offer support during difficult times.

Let them have fun together and build memories

Moments spent between grandparents and grandchildren are priceless. Let them have their fun, even if they break a small rule every now and then. Experiencing special moments enable an exclusive bond to form among them that no one else can share.

Grandparents who live abroad

In today’s world, there are many ways to remain connected. Phone, video calls, emails, messages, and yes, even good old fashioned letters are just some of the ways grandparents and kids can stay in touch and get to know one another.

But what if grandparents are not interested or unable to be more involved?

The sad reality is that not all grandparents are fit or have the energy to keep up with a two-year-old for more than a few minutes at a time. Sometimes grandparents are so far removed from childhood that they may not know how to relate beyond standard greetings. Assist them by informing them of your children’s milestones and developments, fun activities, interests, emerging skills, and hobbies. Encouraging your little ones to think of topics to talk about, stories to share, art to show, or questions to ask about their grandparents’ lives or experiences will also help them break the silence. A visit to grandma and grandpa’s home doesn’t have to be a struggle if children also learn to make a bit of an effort.

But what if one or more grandparent is deceased?

If it’s not too painful for you and/or your partner to do so, talking with your children about some of your favourite memories, who your parents were as individuals, what they were like, what they meant to you, and aspects of their personalities or even features you see in your kids will help them form a mental picture of what their grandparents were like. Children will still learn a lot and may come back with many more questions than you expected.

So with 18 in Mind, let grandparents enjoy special moments they may not have allowed themselves when raising you, and allow your kids to get to know these unique adults in their lives.

Happy parenting,


N.B.: 18 in Mind is a blog about the day your kids turn 18 and the parenting years in between!