The grandparents’ role
Today’s grandparents are very different from those of previous generations. We’re far from the traditional image of the old lady with a white bun knitting in a rocking chair and her husband smoking a pipe by the fireplace! These days, grandparents are most often very active and in good shape, have a busy life and have plenty of energy to pass on to the generations following them. And since they usually have fewer grandchildren than their predecessors, they have more time to devote to each of them and can thus know them better and develop a great relationship.
For parents, they can be valuable allies, confidants, trusted babysitters, helping hands during difficult times and a reassuring presence in both our lives and those of our children. They can even help us let go in this parenting role that we can sometimes take too seriously!
Being grandparents is easy! That's what we tell everyone who asks us about it. It feels like we’re offering a safe place for our children and their little ones. We see that our grandchildren are different with us. They feel that they don’t have anything to prove, and there’s no power or authority involved in the relationship. Being involved in their lives helps us fully realize the sense of continuity in the family. We know that we are helping them create special memories. From the moment our first grandson was born, we realized that our lives had changed!
Jean and Danièle, grandparents of Léonard, 8 years old, and Émile, 6 years old
The importance of a peaceful relationship
According to the author Francine Ferland1, what parents and grandparents really want is to have harmony and unity in the family. And for that, everyone needs to find their place in the family. As much as parents need to be respected for their choices regarding their children’s education and lifestyle, grandparents also need to feel that they have a place in their grandchildren’s lives and can have their own rules and special permissions, all done in harmony and according to the established family values.
For some, it will mean going to bed a bit later or offering a special treat an hour before dinner. For others, it will be eating in front of the television or giving permission to jump on the beds! Bending the rules every now and then is fun, and the kids (and their grandparents) will remember these special moments for a long time. The important thing is to be open and honest with the parents to avoid any kind of frustration or misunderstandings. Parents, for their part, must accept the fact that their kids understand that the rules are different at grandpa and grandma’s without calling into question their own values and ways of doing things.
Julie, mother of two, ages 2 and 4 years old
Whether grandparents live far away or in our house, whether they have a lot of time for themselves or not, whether they’re healthy or a bit more restricted in their activities and movements, each of them can find a way to play this important role where fun and affection are all that really matter. This privileged relationship is certainly very beneficial for everyone, young and old.
1 Francine Ferland, Grands-parents aujourd’hui : plaisirs et pièges, Éditions Sainte-Justine, 2003, 14,95 $, ISBN : 9782922770612