Sharing your wisdom, listening back

Sharing your wisdom, listening back

Zelda West-Meads, agony aunt for You magazine in the Mail on Sunday offers her insights on how best to help your children when they have babies of their own

Zelda West-Meads, agony aunt for You magazine in the Mail on Sunday, offers her insights on how best to help your children when they have babies of their own.

The arrival of a new grandchild can be one of the most exciting times of your life and often, as grandmothers, we can feel overwhelmed by the same rush of maternal love that we felt when our own children were born.

It is also often one of the times that our daughters (or daughters-in-law) need us the most. Becoming a new mother or having a new baby when you already have other little ones running around can be pretty daunting not to say exhausting.

Whether you live nearby or you’re just there at the end of a phone line, your support can make a big difference. Here are some thoughts on how to really help and keep this special time truly special.

Tread with care

Helping is one thing but interfering quite another. Think back to what it was like to be a new mother yourself and how you may have needed your own mother – or resented her telling you what to do.

When you see your daughter feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion or perhaps anxiety, it can be very tempting to just dive in and give her lots of advice – but don’t.

Hold back and bite your tongue.

Don’t just assume that what you did when she was a baby is the way she wants to do everything. Remember that new mothers are awash with hormones and quite emotional, and if you are seen as interfering, you might make her angry or resentful.

Listen and learn

The best way to approach giving advice is perhaps to wait until you are asked. Start by praising her and telling her what a lovely mother she is and how well she is coping and then gently suggest something that you think might help her. Do it very sensitively, and share something that you found helpful when she was a baby and that it might work for her. But stress that it is just a suggestion and that you are not telling her what to do. And do try not to tell her what to do too often.

Remember too that advice on babies changes over the years. For example, there are different guidelines now on feeding or weaning and putting babies to sleep on their backs, not their fronts. So do try to respect advice she is being given by her GP, midwives or health visitors.

Give them space

Also, remember that dad may have ideas on how he wants to bring up their children, too, and that they may differ from yours – be prepared to stand back a little. Remember that your daughter or daughter-in-law will know her baby better than you do because she spends 24 hours a day with her new baby. In fact, you can probably also learn from her.

As her baby grows, your daughter will know what food her child likes best, when naptimes are, what makes the baby cranky or happy and, as the child gets a little older, which are its favourite books, toys and television programmes. Invite her to share these insights with you and it will help you to get closer to your grandchild, too.

Being there

If your daughter is having problems with her baby or toddler and is not coping, it can really help her to have you to turn to. Being a really good listener and trying to understand her fears and worries and to comfort and reassure her will be invaluable and perhaps even bring you closer.

Helping out

There are so many ways that grandmothers can make themselves popular with both their children and their grandchildren.

In the early days, help out as much as you can in a practical way by cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry or shopping, for instance, so that she can have rest or a shower or take a little time for herself while you have the baby.

You can also take toddlers or older children off her hands to allow her baby time, or look after the baby for a couple of hours so she can give them attention. This is the time to treasure all the family.

Their home, their rules

As the children grow up, continue to be the loving and fun grandmother but remember to stick with your daughter and her partner’s rules.

Don’t undermine their discipline by giving them sweets or money or presents if you have been asked not to as that will only set you against your daughter or her partner.

If you think they are being too strict (or too lenient) try and find a time to tell them this very gently when the children aren’t around to hear you – but again, start by praising those positives you can see in their parenting skills.

Be ready to hear

The number one rule is to listen. Your daughter is now a mother and it is her job to look after her baby. However, you can look after YOUR baby by being there for her and letting her find her own way of doing things.

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vivien 21/01/2017

Help your family live their dreams

The world needs Nans

Hopegirl 21/01/2017

This is such good advice from Zelda, especially about listening -it's really important to let new mum's talk about their birth experience if they want to. This 'de-briefing' is vital for women to process and to move forward on their parenting pathway.

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