Help for new nannas and pops

Becoming a grandparent is one of the key transitions in a person’s life but according to parenting expert and psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg many first-time grandparents feel unprepared for the role. Carr-Greg is also an author and interviewed many grandparents –some of them famous – for his new book Grandparents: A practical guide to navigating grandparenting today (Allen & Unwin).

“They are unsure how to approach it and some are anxious about stepping on the toes of their kids – the new parents. I get the feeling that many Australian grandparents just white-knuckle their way through, learning as they go along.

“Becoming a grandparent is a relationship based on love, appreciation, fun and pure joy but the secret to success lies in the preparation,” he said.

The centrepiece of his new book is ‘The Grandparenting Code’, a helpful guide that he has come up with to help grandparents, and first-timers in particular, navigate and strengthen their relationships with their children (now as parents) and grandchildren.

Carr-Gregg acknowledged that being a grandparent today is very different to what it was a generation ago and it can be a very intense relationship full of complexities, from massive changes in education and the influence of social media to family dynamics, neurodiversity and gender identity.

He came up with the Grandparenting Code, he said, to help them feel more confident in how to strengthen those intergenerational relationships. Carr-Gregg said it’s important for first-time grandparents to decide what their role is going to be and how they are going to support their grandchildren and that will depend on their own circumstances, but some of his key tips include:
■ Don’t give parents unsolicited advice as that would be interpreted as criticism.
■ Play is a great relationship builder with the grandchildren.
■ Manage screen and technology time by grandchildren in consultation with the parents;
■ Be aware of the risks of ‘grandsharenting’ which is the sharing of information, photos and updates about grandchildren on socials.
■ Try to be neutral in family disputes. . Support your grandchildren and be a positive role model;
■ Foster family rituals and events to provide a shared sense of belonging and identity within the family. Birthdays, graduations, even weekly family dinners or bedtime routines are powerful ways to bond and offer stability in times of stress.

“All the grandparents I’ve met professed a desire to be helpful and significant to their grandkids, to be effective and to make a difference,” Carr-Gregg said.

“In the process everyone benefits. From the hugs, the sleepovers, your new name, and general silliness, to the extra source of love, this bond is special and unbreakable.”

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