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Guide to Grandparenting

There is no doubt that grandchildren are one of the joys of growing old. It's often said that they are better than our own children because we can give them back when we have done our bit with them.

It is a great joy when they run to you with their arms outstretched for you to pick them up and when they smile at you just for cuddling them. Grandchildren can be fulfilling and extremely satisfying; they give us a feeling of belonging and of helping our family as well as giving us hours of joy.

There can be a downside, though. Many grandparents get sucked into caring for their grandchildren almost (or literally) on a full-time basis and get more involved than they might wish to. If both parents are working and require child-minding services, then grandparents are an ideal option - they are cheap, reliable and they love their grandchildren far more than any outsider will. So if you don't want to become a full-time parent again (and some people are only too happy to) then there has to be a balance.

Guide to Grandparenting links

Of course, grandchildren almost inevitably mean expense. We want to buy them presents and, if we are local to them, take them out to see places. We might want to take them on holiday, with or without their parents. So, one way and another, they are a drain on our finances - and the more we have the more expensive it becomes. We therefore need to keep it all in perspective and, whilst we want to treat them and, dare we say, even spoil them, we must remember that we need a budget for all of this.

Also on the financial side, we might want to help with their future by starting a savings account for them or helping with their future in some other tangible way. What we do for the first one we really ought to do for all of them, so we need to think about that when we decide what to do for our first grandchild.

Another potential area of difficulty is over discipline. As a generalisation, it's probably fair to say that grandparents are less strict than parents. Whilst that's all right up to a point it can lead to disagreement and even conflict if parents and grandparents have different ways of dealing with the young people. What's more, it can lead to confusion in their minds over where the lines are drawn and what is acceptable and what's not.

The Grandparent's BookIt's very common, too, for jealousy to creep into relationships where grandchildren are involved. Very often, one set of grandparents resents the fact that the other set sees more of the grandchildren. This can be for a variety of reasons: location, availability or opportunity. It may also be imagined and exaggerated when, in reality, the grandparents who feel hard done by see as much of the grandchildren as the other set of grandparents.

Jealousy may even rear its ugly head between grandparents and parents when the grandparents start to feel that the parents aren't letting them see enough of the grandchildren. It may start when the grandchildren start school and thus see less of grandparents.

There are many reasons why this feeling of jealousy starts and the only way to stop it is to talk to the parents, get feelings out into the open and then resolve by compromise, forward planning, reassurance or whatever else is appropriate.

For a very good, quick overview of both the joys and potential problems of being a grandparent, go to the Saga website, which has an excellent section on being a grandparent. If you would like to read further about all the aspects of grandparenting, click on the book link above and buy it from Amazon. It's by the famous childcare expert, Dr Miriam Stoppard, and is full of good advice.

The Guide focuses mainly, but not exclusively, on younger grandchildren but remember that teenage grandchildren will also want a good relationship with their grandparents. It will change as they get older, as the relationship with our children did, but if you have built a good relationship with them in their early years then this will carry through as they grow up and become adults.

Now click the links in the box and continue with the laterlife Guide to Grandparenting and see what it's all about and what you can do to be the best grandparent possible. If you have any grandparenting experiences that you would like to share, please do so through the feedback form.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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