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4-minute read

There is no simple formula for being a successful grandparent. Every family's situation is different.

Whether you are a new or more experienced grandparent, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your role.

Helping look after grandkids

How and when you spend time with your grandchildren can depend on diverse things such as life's other demands on you and the parents, how far apart you live and your health and strength.

While children are known to benefit from having a close attachment to several significant people such as you, you can also benefit from your relationship with your grandchildren.

You can play creatively with them, listen to their stories and share your own, explore new ideas and give them love - then give them back to their parents. For most grandparents, it is that freedom from overall responsibility that separates the roles of grandparent and parent.

If the grandchildren spend time at your home, think about whether you might need to make some changes to make it safe for young exploring children. Make sure that things such as dangerous chemicals and sharp objects are well out of reach.

Respecting the parents' decisions

At times, you might find it hard to accept that attitudes to child-raising have changed in the years since you were raising your family. There may be different parenting styles, such as positive parenting, or societal expectations about protecting your child's safety.

It helps to realise that parents will probably have their own views and to respect those views from the outset. Try and do things their way to give your grandchildren a consistent message and avoid conflict.

In case you feel the need to discipline your grandchildren, talk to their parents first about what they would do.

And if family conflict arises for any reason, it may help preserve your relationship with your grandchildren if you show respect for their parents' situations.

Setting boundaries

Once the topic of caring for your grandchildren has come up, talk to their parents about how best to proceed. It's a good idea to voice your preferences at the start.

If you lead an active, busy life and have a wide circle of friends, chances are you will not want to be 'on call' to care for your grandchildren. So you may need to map out a schedule - it's okay to have your own life.

You and the children's parents should what each of you needs so that there are no unwelcome surprises or unmet expectations.

Any plan will be subject to change over time as the child grows or the parents' work situation changes.

There may come a time when other childcare options, such as day care, should be considered.

Support roles of grandparents

Grandparents can play a range of supportive roles, from financial to emotional to acting as a role model for their grandchildren.

Regular contact and lending an ear can be important types of general support. You may also provide more practical support, such as preparing meals for the family and picking your grandkids up from school.

Grandparents can be an important source of emotional support through difficult times.

There may be times when you feel the need for practical or emotional support yourself. If so, the maternal child health nurses at Pregnancy, Birth and Baby are there for grandparents too.

Under some circumstances, you might find yourself in a mainly parenting role.

The Raising Children Network has some useful resources for grandparent carers.

No matter what your situation, don't forget to look after yourself. Being a grandparent should not isolate you from your friends or damage your health.

Besides, if you feel unhappy or unwell, you will be less likely to enjoy your time with the grandchildren.

Where to go for more information

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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