Disclosure :: As parents some of us are sure of ourselves and others … not so much. Generally, though, parents have plentiful opportunities to take classes. But what about grandparents? Things have changed in the past several decades, and we are so thrilled that our sponsors, Touro Infirmary and The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, are offering their first class geared towards educating grandparents. They also have sponsored this post in which Barbara LeBlanc, LCSW-BACS, Director, The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital gives her best advice to grandparents.
Q: What advice do you have for first time grandparents?
A: As a first time grandparent (and soon to be second-time), I expected to embrace the experience, but was unprepared for the adoration and joy I feel for my granddaughter. My friends told me grandparenting is fun and I wholeheartedly agree! The uniqueness of the relationship provides a very special bond in a child’s life. The wonder and love you feel when you see this extension of your family as your child becomes a parent is indescribable! One word, actually two words, of advice? Enjoy it!
Q: How can first time grandparents best support their children as new parents?
A: Let your children find their own ways as parents. They are a product of the current times and trends, and grandparents need to respect the process of learning for new parents. There is much more research available to parents that may contradict the conventional wisdom about child rearing from past generations, so your experiences and advice may not be welcome. Ask (don’t assume) what they need even though they may not know themselves. That’s part of the respect for their growth as adults entering a new role.
I hear from many new parents attending our Snuggles and Struggles class what they found helpful in the early months. Some loved having their own mothers visit and help when they were first home, some said their mothers-in-law were more helpful. The relationships and clarity of communication are what define whether we find someone’s presence helpful or not. Try to remember how stressful and confusing it was to learn to read a newborn’s signals and to realize that you are the grown up now and responsible for someone else! Respect and support the new parents’ decisions by following their leads and cues for when the baby is hungry and when to put them down.
Q: How can we clarify roles and expectations before the baby arrives?
A: Listen to you children as much as you can about what their expectations are when the baby arrives. Ask how they envision things and what they want from you. What they want is more important than what you want. You can still let them know how much you want to help, just be sure to define what kind of help. Maybe being there during the day to wash clothes, fix meals and let mom sleep is enough. Then let the couple be together at night with the baby by themselves. Another family may want support at night too. If dad is taking off the first week or two, then grandparent help might be more welcome when he has to go back to work. While we know we can’t plan and control everything once the baby arrives, the young parents haven’t learned this yet. Respect their choices knowing it may all change once the baby is born!
Q: What are common trends in today’s parenting and discipline styles?
A: Today’s parents are more child-centered than any other generation. This can manifest itself in good ways and irritating ways. Parenting instruction and advice books number in the thousands on Amazon. Bloggers share their stories for anyone to read. The upshot is that parents are already inundated with contradictory information. Parents are consumers, and new parents are often the target for the latest sales pitch as to what they can buy to guarantee their babies get into Harvard.
Researchers have scanned the brains of normal children from birth and science now supports what parents and educators have always known: experiences and relationships provide the most important ingredient for healthy development. While you can support your children in nurturing the self-esteem of their children and embracing the technology of today, it’s important that you counter pop culture and consumer mentality with an emphasis on emotional connections. To me that’s the key and most important role for grandparents of today: to keep your grandchildren grounded in the family culture and relationships.
Do you know a new grandparent that is looking to learn more? Join our sponsors, Touro and The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, for Grandparenting 101 on Wednesday, September 3 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
First time grandparents, a lot has changed in newborn care over the last few decades! From tummy time to safe sleeping (back only), and swaddling to car seat safety, we are here to teach you the basics.
Learn how to best support your children as new parents and feel refreshed in newborn care skills that you will quickly put to use as doting grandparents.
Click here to learn more or to register for free today.
Barbara LeBlanc has been the Director of The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital since 2005, having served as the Assistant Director since 1988. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is currently an adjunct professor at Tulane School of Social Work. Barbara was the inaugural chair and currently serves on the Guidance Team of the Louisiana Parenting Education Network and is the Chair-elect of the National Parenting Education Network. In addition to her professional experience in parenting education, she is the mother of three adult children and a new grandmother.