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Top tips for grandparents

If you're a grandparent, or about to become one, chances are you'll be excited about spending quality time with your little ones. However it's also normal to feel nervous, out of practice or worried about getting it wrong and ruffling feathers.

The good news is there's no one way to be a great grandparent – it's about finding the balance that works best for your family. We've put together some information on six of the most common questions grandparents have, with advice from other grandparents on what works for them.


Should I give parenting advice?

It's perfectly normal to want to share your experience and help out when and where you can. But remember that offering advice – particularly unsolicited advice – can also be seen as interfering. The way you parented might not be the way your children want to parent.

Becoming a parent is a big step. Just like when they were small themselves, sometimes we have to let our children find their own way as they adjust to their new role in life – even if that means there are a few bumps in the road. Being there with them and on hand to help when they ask can be the best way to support them.

"I think part of my job is to support my grandson and, if they need it or ask, to support my daughter and son-in-law with difficult decisions. My biggest tip would be to enjoy every moment and keep your mouth zipped!"

Hazel, grandparent to Freddie, 2

What snacks are allowed?

Most parents and grandparents try very hard to teach their children to eat healthily, but some are stricter than others. So if parents say that fizzy drinks, sweets, chocolates or chips are off-limits, it's important to respect this.

That said, we all want to treat our grandkids from time to time – just discuss it with mum and dad first. And don't be tempted by butter-wouldn't-melt smiles!

"We try to make sure meal times are similar to when they're with their parents – so at the table, good manners and not too many snacks between meals. Baby feeding is definitely different these days. Weaning now doesn't involve too much mashing, but choking is a real worry for me so I mash things for longer!"

Helen and Joe, grandparents to Ezra, 4, and Nella, 10 months

Am I being left out?

If your grandchildren are lucky enough to have grandparents on both sides, it can sometimes feel like there's a bit of competition between you or that things aren't entirely equal. This can be especially hard if one set of grandparents lives locally and sees them more often. Although it might be tempting to try and win your grandchildren over with expensive presents or elaborate day trips, try not to compete – or compare. 

If you don't live near your grandchildren, you might feel you're missing out on watching them grow or spending time with them. Remember, it's not the quantity of your time together  it's the quality. And these days there are lots of ways to keep in touch. Your grandchildren will develop their own special relationships with you, so just focus on being yourself and making the most of when you can be together. 

"Don't be too serious! That's my tip. Make sure that your grandchildren remember that you were fun to be with. Having the opportunity to share in the joy of childhood once more is really special."

Daphne, whose grandchildren don't live close by

How do I say no to babysitting?

Looking after the grandchildren is a great opportunity to spend time with them and it's also a good way to stay active as we get older. But young children – and the responsibility that goes with taking care of them – can be very tiring, and it can be hard to say no.

You have every right to say you can't babysit, particularly if you're finding it too much or simply need a break to concentrate on your own life. Talking honestly with mum and dad about what you can and can't do and why can be really helpful. Take on too much childcare and it may begin to feel like a chore, rather than a pleasure.

"I look after my granddaughters after school once a fortnight plus a good proportion of the school holidays. Each school year I see which day of the week works best for me and then I tell my daughter when I'm available. We work dates out before the start of each term. I do have to say no sometimes as I have lots of other commitments and can't always respond to an emergency."

Jane, who has two granddaughters aged 4 and 6

Am I spoiling them?

Treating our grandchildren is one of life's pleasures. Sometimes the temptation to buy them a fun toy or a cute outfit is impossible to resist, or perhaps you find yourself saying "Go on then" when you should be saying no.

Problems can arise if you find yourself undermining mum and dad's rules. Being consistent and fair doesn't mean you can't still be fun! You also shouldn't feel that you need to buy your way to your grandchildren's hearts. Spending quality time with them doing the things they enjoy will always mean more than the latest toy.

"As grandparents we probably have a more relaxed attitude. We embrace some boisterous behaviour that maybe I would have found embarrassing to deal with when I was younger. But I wouldn't let them be naughty or cheeky with us!"

Helen, grandparent of two under 5s

How do I better understand my grandchildren’s interests?

The world our grandchildren live in can seem completely alien at times. You're probably used to finding them staring intently at a screen – be that a phone, tablet or computer. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to talk to them about the things they're interested in.

But that's just it – talk to them! Take an interest in your grandchildren's hobbies and the technology they use. Perhaps you could even ask them to teach you a few things or set up a chat group with them so you can keep in touch. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all things digital, your local Age UK might provide training to help you get online.

Why not consider taking them on a day out somewhere you'll all enjoy? They could still bring their phones with them, but you could encourage them to take photos or videos of your day trip to help keep them engaged. This might also encourage them to look beyond their screens from time to time.

"I love sharing their excitement as they develop skills and explore new situations. Their minds are like blotting paper, so it's a great time to impart your knowledge. But listen to their comments as well. You too will learn!"

Reg, who has two grandchildren

Let's celebrate Grandparents' Day!

It's Grandparents Day on Sunday 7 October. Share your favourite photos of what being a grandparent means to you on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #Grandpics

Are you a Grannenial?

Know your Cardi B from your FOMO? You could be one of the new generation of millennial grandparents who say their grandkids have given them a new lease of life.

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