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I Am Too Young to be a Grandparent!


You’re in the prime of your life. You have a job that makes you feel vital and an active social life. You’ve taken care of yourself over the years, and it shows: Most people think you’re 10 - no, 15 - years younger than you are. Still, your days as an ageless wonder are about to end:

You’re Going to be a Grandparent

According to Allan and Kathryn Zullo, author of "A Boomer’s Guide to Grandparenting," the image most baby boomers have of themselves is “nothing like the stereotypical gray-haired grandmas and grandpas who sat in rocking chairs, baked cookies, whittled toys and told stories of the ‘good old days.’" The average age of the first-time grandparent in America, in fact, is 48, practically the heart of a healthy and productive middle age.

No wonder, then, that for many, hearing the words “grandma and grandpa" for the first time can be tough. Experts note that becoming a first-time grandparent represents a huge shift in self-identity, which, like all life’s major transitions, inevitably gives rise to a complicated mix of feelings. “It can be shocking initially,” says Barbara Richert, a licensed clinical social worker in New York City. “But it’s way overcompensated by the bond you develop with the child and the sheer adorableness of the term [grandma].”

New baby, New Life

Vanity aside, the biggest concern for many people with active lives and full-time careers is how they'll find the time to be a proper grandparent. Indeed, studies show that children who have strong relationships with their grandparents are more confident and well-adjusted in their lives.

“Don't be one of those boomers who’s trying to jam more ‘me time’ into an already crammed schedule because you’re freaked out that life is passing you by,” says Allan Zullo. “What can be more important than playing a major role in the life of a child? If you don’t get involved with your grandchildren right now, what will pass you by is your opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.”

In this rapidly changing world, however, no one model of grandparenting is the “right” one. If you bring the same passion and vigor to your new role that you do to your work, and make the moments you can spend with your grandchildren loving and interesting; the rest will follow.

If time is an issue, plan your vacations around those of your kids and grandkids.Save weekends for special activities with the little ones. Offer to babysit in the evenings if you can. Or take your grandchild with you as you do errands or simple chores. “Children envision time differently than adults do,” Zullo says. “A half-hour or hour may seem short to us, but to a child who is enjoying what she's doing, that time is expanded for her.”

Instead of looking at grandparenting as the next step to mortality, revel in the excitement of helping nurture a new generation of healthy, happy kids. Surrender to the simple pleasure of heartbreakingly tender, unconditional love. Above all, don’t stop doing what makes you happy, challenged and fulfilled; no better role model exists for your grandchildren.

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

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