What Grandparents Forget About Parenting

Bringing up Children Is Hard and Stressful Work

Grandparents love to tell parents to enjoy their children while they are little. It's good advice, but it glosses over one indisputable fact: Some parts of parenthood aren't enjoyable. Some parts are hard and stressful, and grandparents should remember those parts of parenting, too. If they do, they'll be more understanding of their adult children and less likely to cause grief between the generations.


Parenting Is Exhausting

Exhausted mother with laundry basket shows that parenting is hard and tiring

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Sure, most parents never forget the early days of sleep deprivation but it may be hard for grandparents to fully recall those times when they were too tired to take a shower. Also, it's easy to forget that it doesn't get much easier. Parents who finally get rid of one onerous task, such as changing diapers, usually get another one in its place, such as finding a potty for a toddler in time to prevent an accident. When children are finally large enough to mostly take care of themselves, they need to be driven to rehearsal and practice and friends' houses.

The bottom line is that parenting never stops being exhausting. And while it's fine for grandparents to expect some help from adult children, it's best to look for other ways to get things done first. The best grandparents look for ways to help out the parents. 


Going Places Is Hard

Mother and son packing suitcase

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Grandparents may forget that herding cats sometimes seems easy compared to getting out of the house with two or more children. Mostly, it's a problem of clothing. Children have a knack for losing one shoe or misplacing their jackets just when a cold snap occurs. Then there are spills and bathroom accidents that require last-minute clothing changes. Besides clothing issues, there's the extra gear required by babies and toddlers and all sorts of last-minute emergencies.

Grandparents who travel with their grandchildren probably don't need to be reminded that going places is hard. They may already know the rule that says when trying to get somewhere on time with children, you should allow an extra half an hour for each young child. That allows for delays at home and for extra stops you may have to make on the way. Mostly, grandparents should remember to be patient with parents who perennially run late. Maybe a grandchild decided to let the family hamster out of its cage or to use mom's new lasts-all-day lipstick as body paint. Getting places on time is hard. Give the parents a break.


Parents Already Feel Guilty

Mother talking to daughter as she gets on the school bus

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No one makes the right decisions all the time. When parents do something that turns out poorly for their kids, they are going to feel guilty about it. Sometimes parents make genuinely poor decisions. Sometimes they make good decisions that inexplicably go wrong. No matter, the parents will feel terrible.

Grandparents, being logical persons, will sometimes ask parents, "Why didn't you just say no?" or in some other way suggest that the parents should have known better. Such responses, of course, only compound parental guilt. It's much better to say, "I would have done the exact same thing." Even better is "I remember when I did something just like that."


Parents Are Judged Constantly

Old lady looks over spectacles, disapproving, eyebrows raised

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When most grandparents were young parents, how they raised their kids was mostly considered their own business. Today complete strangers often feel empowered to weigh in on the parenting practices of others. In addition, parents may feel judged by their friends, their neighbors, their kids' teachers and a myriad of others. They may even be criticized on social media. Grandparents shouldn't be added to the list of those who judge.

One of the best ways for grandparents to nurture their relationship with their adult children is to focus on positives, not negatives. Praise the many things that parents do right instead of zeroing in on the things they might have done wrong. Keep communication with adult children civil, and strive to treat them as equals rather than preserving a parent-child hierarchy.


Parenting Is Done on the Fly

Father and son running to school

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It's ironic that with so much information at their fingertips, parents still must make many split-second decisions daily. Added to the big decisions, such as which schools are best, are a million little ones, such as whether a child is old enough to cross the street. If parents paused to research every single issue involving their children, they would never get anything done. Most decisions aren't crucial. But when it comes to other topics, knowledge is critical.

Grandparents can help by staying informed on issues involving their grandchildren. They can even offer to do extra research if it is needed. If they take on the job of research assistant, however, they must be careful to keep their own preconceived notions out of the mix.


Paying Bills Is Stressful

Stressed parents paying bills on laptop

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Young people are constantly being told that they should save for the future. At the same time, most struggle with paying their bills in the present. A million forces can conspire to wreak havoc on their budgets, from a child's growth spurt to a jump in college tuition. That's not even counting the bills that can result from accidents, natural disasters, and unforeseen health emergencies.

Many grandparents have reached a point of financial comfort, and they may have forgotten what it feels like to be constantly worried about money. Grandparents who want their adult children to become financially responsible will avoid bailing them out every time that they get themselves into a bind. At the same time, grandparents who are financially able can find sensible ways to give money to children and grandchildren, such as helping out with a grandchild's college.​


The Future Is Uncertain

Parents with baby in bed at home biting fingers

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What parents want most is a good future for their children. Unfortunately, with everything changing at warp speed, it's impossible to know what to do to prepare children for the future. The decisions that parents make today may be contraindicated by research that comes out tomorrow. Today's hot career may become tomorrow's dead-end job. So parents worry. A lot.

Grandparents also want good futures for their grandchildren. In fact, this topic may top the list of what grandparents worry about. Still, grandparents may have lived long enough to have a little more perspective. They know that life is uncertain but that the tables are stacked in favor of those who are willing to learn, who work hard and who are genuinely good people. Creating people like that is sort of the point of parenting. And the point of grandparenting, too.

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