The arrival of a sweet addition is such an exciting time for both the expectant parents and the future grandparents. Each day brings a new milestone and endless possibility. Lists are made; furniture is assembled, and rooms are decorated. It is easy for relatives to get carried away with ideas and well-meaning advice in the process. Grandparents can be a wealth of knowledge, support and fun, but can also step over the line. I was recently quoted in Fit Pregnancy, regarding grandparents who were willing to gift large sums of money to their kids to “buy” their choice of grandchild’s name.
Here are a few things parents and parents-to-be would like their parents to know:
Do keep an open mind. While you may not agree with every parenting choice, a healthy and loving relationship with the parents and your grandchild is the goal. How can you cheer them on during this season? Shower them with kindness and play a supportive role.
Don’t make assumptions. Even though you may have had a full room during the delivery of each of your children, it is always wise to have a conversation in advance about the birth mother’s wishes. Would she like you to check in from time to time or prefer her privacy during the birthing process? Are photos welcome or would they rather you put your smartphone away? Knowing in advance will help maintain a positive atmosphere.
Do call ahead. Just as you wouldn’t stop by someone’s home without contacting them first, extend the same respect to a family who has just brought home an infant. The first few months are an adjustment period. While you may be “in the neighborhood,” it may not be the best time for a visit with the new baby.
Don’t force your thoughts on baby names. Continually providing suggestions on baby names isn’t a wise route to take. The decision rests 100% on the expectant parents. Similarly, expressing disapproval over their selection(s) can be extremely hurtful.
Do allow the parents some space. Before you queue up Zillow alerts on their neighborhood, remember they may have other ideas. Unless you are invited and encouraged, moving to the same area or directly across the street may not be the best choice of housing options.
Don’t keep score. It should not matter who gets to see the baby more often or if one set of grandparents was invited to the first doctor’s visit, and you weren’t. The quality of the relationship will be diminished when grandparents are in competition with each other.
Do ask first. While some new parents may welcome housekeeping assistance, getting up to dust or put dishes in the dishwasher can seem like a criticism. Instead, ask if there is anything you can help with. The new mom may need an extra set of hands to hold the baby so she can take a shower or just walk around the block.
Don’t offer your opinion on nursing, childcare or parenting methods.
You may think the baby needs a blanket to sleep, but the new parents were told by their doctor to forgo the covering as a safety precaution. Perhaps your view is that cloth diapers are better than disposable – again, not your baby!
Do follow the rules of your grandchild’s parents. If mom and dad say the baby must sleep on his back, don’t challenge them because you followed different guidelines when your kids were babies. That also goes for older children too. If mom says no to refined sugar or an 8 o’clock bedtime, the rule should be respected.
Don’t forget your whooping cough shot. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is very contagious and needs to be taken seriously. Anyone in contact with a newborn should be vaccinated – including both sets of grandparents. Some grandparents scoff at the idea, but it’s the prerogative of the new parents to insist before they come into contact with their new bundle of joy.
For more baby etiquette tips, you may also find Pregnancy Etiquette: When Baby Arrives helpful.