But perhaps things haven't turned out to be quite so idyllic. I hear questions all the time from grandparents who wonder why they're getting a cool response instead of boundless enthusiasm from their own kids — and their grandkids. Here are five pieces of advice that I'd like to share.
1. Don't tell your kids how to raise their children. Avoid judging their parenting style and bite your tongue unless they ask for your advice. If you disagree with their decisions — and you will, sooner or later — keep quiet. Your job is to be the grandparent, not the parent. Instead, respect their parenting efforts and look for reasons to complement them. Accept that the approaches to raising children vary from one generation to the next and your kids may do things differently from the way you did. Being a parent is hard work, and most parents are unsure of their parenting skills, whether they admit it or not. The parents of your grandchildren don't need you harping on their biggest fears and making them feel worse. The more they see you as criticizing, the more defensive they will feel and a rift can quickly form. The more they see you as supportive, the more open they will be to establishing a strong relationship.
— David P. Hall/Corbis
Focus on being positive and supportive, not invasive, and you'll be a big hit as a grandparent.
2. Don't forget how to say no. Never commit to babysitting or ongoing child care if you really don't want to do it. You will end up feeling resentment. Remember, you're entitled to have a life, too. When you offer or accept the request to care for grandchildren, go in with your eyes wide open and set some boundaries. You may be willing to make some sacrifices for your grandchildren and welcome the opportunity to care for them, but don't feel you have to spend every possible moment with them. Live your own life with balance and you'll be a great role model. When it comes to gifts for grandchildren, the same rules apply. Don't allow yourself to be "guilted" into spending more money on grandkids than you can afford. If their parents rely on you to pay for extras or even basics, consider your own financial security and remember that even the little things add up. Have the intention of generosity, but be prudent. Otherwise, you may end up needing their help. Grandparents often say the difference between a grandparent and a parent is that what they do for grandchildren is a choice, not an obligation. Make good choices with your time and finances.