Marion Barends e-mailed me recently to ask some advice about her high need grandson. It got me thinking about how lucky her daughter is to have a mom who is involved in the care of her own child. Ok I admit, Marion’s daughter, Tiffany, is only 18 years old and currently studying for her matric. She and her baby live with Marion and they rely on her in every way. But even much older moms who are independent, married and established in their lives usually long for and need their own mothers to bring wisdom and support during the confusing and challenging years of babies and young children.
When you become a parent, especially a mother, you really need your own mom. For those new moms whose mothers have died, live far away or are emotionally absent, taking care of a young baby can be very hard. Moms who are suffering from postnatal depression usually benefit hugely from the loving, supportive presence of their own mothers. And children benefit from knowing their grandparents and from having a bond with them. It gives them a sense of who they are and where they come from. It helps them to identify their roots and to establish a firmer sense of self. Having a strong relationship with grandparents also can help kids to negotiate the process of separating psychologically with their own parents, particularly their moms. Trusting granny enough to spend a night at her house helps kids to feel emotionally strong enough to explore their independence.
My message to grandparents is that your children need you when they are grown up too, and even more when they have their own kids. You never stop being a parent. Sometimes the ageing process, illness and physical incapacity can take away your own independence. It can disempower you and cause you to lean on your grown up kids. But if you are relatively healthy and if you have the time and the energy, try to be there for your children and your grandchildren as much as you can. Be present, be involved and build a relationship with your grandchildren. Your role as a grandparent is vital. Of-course difficulties can arise out of differences in child-rearing styles between parents and grandparents. But negotiating these difficulties and talking them through is better than depriving a child of his grandparents.
TOP TIPS FOR GRANDPARENTS
- Make your house child-friendly and child-safe
- Cover or fence your swimming pool
- Put child locks on cupboards where necessary
- Remove breakable, fragile and precious ornaments from toddler level
- Buy some age-appropriate toys, books and games and keep them in your home for when your grandchildren visit