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When Parents Expect Too Much from Grandparents

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"Mom and Dad, we have something to tell you. You're going to be grandparents!"

With these simple words, your lives will change forever as you begin the process of reliving the seasons of parenthood you experienced during your children's growing years. Now you have some decisions to make about your new roles as Grandma and Grandpa.

How do you decide the commitments you're willing to make? On what do you base your decisions? Follow these simple steps:

Decision No. 1: How Much of Your Time (the most precious gift) You Can Give

Ask yourself these questions before committing to a certain amount of time in caring for this new life: Are you free all day every day, so you can be the designated sitter? Do you have other obligations, such as a job, volunteer work, or travel plans to factor into your decision?

Your time commitment to caring for the new baby is a very personal one. If your days are open, may want to relive the time when you cared for your own young children; in that case, babysitting every day may be just what you've dreamed of doing. Or you may want to babysit on occasion. If you don't want to be on call as a sitter, that's your choice; it doesn't require any excuses.

Decision No. 2: How Much Money You Can Afford to Give

New things for the baby are expensive and safety concerns dictate the quality of cribs, car seats, and strollers; the ones you've stored in the attic since your children were babies may now be obsolete!

Reviewing the family budget is important now to see what discretionary funds might be available. A visit with a financial planner may be the place to begin, because the financial commitment to the baby could affect retirement funds that you have. You may decide that your present budget is full of frivolous expenditures, and that spending on the new baby is the best investment money can buy.

Decision No. 3: How and When You Will Inform the Parents-To-Be of Your Thinking

Openness is an important gift. You've made your financial- and time-commitment decisions; it will be helpful to everyone if you discuss these gifts early in the pregnancy, and make sure that everyone understands the commitments you are able to make and why you made them. Have a script prepared that you can discuss at a family meeting, so that you can make the points you want to make without skipping important ones or getting offtrack.

Here are some suggestions for your meeting (we've culled them from research on negotiation best practices):

  • Face the parents-to-be as you speak to them.

  • Make eye contact.

  • Start with something positive, such as, "We are so excited and want to help as much as we can."

  • State your decisions: "Here's what we can afford to spend, based on our financial planning. And we'd love to spend time with you and the baby on this schedule because of our work and volunteer commitments that we already made."

  • Ask for a reaction: "What do you think?"

Note that the statements focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't do. This keeps the conversation positive and hopeful. Just remember, you have a love bond with your children, and that love will remain as the most important lifelong commitment, no matter what you decide to do.

This information is not a substitute for personal medical, psychiatric or psychological advice.

 
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