How to Foster Great Relationships With Grandparents

As parents, most of us are a little guilty of thinking that the influence we have on our children is all powerful. And of course it’s important – it needs to be. But children are generally born into existing families, with extended family and relatives. They too have their own unique and influential role on our children.

There has been lots of research into the particular importance of grandparents in children’s lives. Not just in terms of supporting parents with practical care, but the unique relationships which grandparents and children can have.

What’s so good about grandparents anyway?

  • They help to guarantee the continuation of a family’s lineage. From a survival perspective, this is how families have shared their genetic inheritances for more than 200,000 years.
  • When there is chaos and disruption in the family home, grandparents can provide stability and security.
  • Grandparents often have more time and energy than parents because of the parents’ work commitments.
  • Grandparents can be very nurturing and patient, especially when they are motivated to have a good relationship with their grandchildren.
  • They are often more financially stable and secure. This means they can have extra money to spend on entertainment and taking the kids out (but not always).
  • They often have more patience, as well as the benefits of experience and wisdom which are only earned through time.

What helps build the grandparent-grandchild connection?

  • Be motivated to support them having a good relationship. When, how and where your kids connect with their grandparent/s will depend on you. Transport, organisation and just the general mechanics of getting them together takes adults to work out.  So if you’re keen from the start, then everything else will follow.
  • Get your partner on side to support this as well. If drop offs and picks ups are shared, then you’re more likely to sustain for longer the energy required.
  • Be optimistic about the benefits. If you believe that both the kids and the grandparents will benefit then you’re more likely to be supportive.
  • Remember that individual personalities play a big role in how we connect with each other. You may find that one of your children just ‘clicks’ with a particular grandparent and there’s really no explanation as to why.
  • Give it time. Good relationships can take years to grow. Raising a family is a marathon, not a sprint, so try not to do too much too soon.

What to do

  • Encourage your child’s grandparents to be involved, right from your pregnancy. Tell them you’re keen for their input into your child’s life.
  • Where possible, take their advice on board. If they have successfully raised their own children they will have some idea of what’s involved, even if their ideas on parenting are different to your own.
  • Accept all reasonable offers of childminding and support. The more time spent together between children and grandparents, the more opportunity for love to grow.
  • Encourage traditions and routines which just happen at grandma/pa’s house.
  • If location is an issue, consider longer stays during school holidays and long weekends. You may need to be creative about making the most of opportunities.
  • Consider Skype, FaceTime and all forms of digital communication if physical proximity is an issue.
  • If your kids are school age, get them to coach their grandparents in technical ways to connect.
  • Encourage shared passions such as gardening, board games, sports, history, reading or music. One of the many great things about the next generation is that they often have different interests to parents.
  • If relevant, support your children’s grandparents to share their money saving tips. Again, the next generation has often learned the benefits of delayed gratification – a useful skill for any age group.

What not to do

  • Avoid comparisons with different family members, in particular the other ‘set’ of grandparents. Every person and family is unique. Comparing, while tempting, can be very hurtful.
  • Don’t play favourites. Where possible, arrange equal time with both sets of grandparents, otherwise resentment and jealousy can build.
  • Don’t expect grandparents to fund outings unless they offer to. Be mindful that income, time, health and motivation all play a part.
  • Don’t expect automatic offers of childminding from grandparents. They are entitled to make their own decisions about how they spend their time, so be aware of not asking too much, too often.
  • Don’t be controlling about how you want grandparents to care for, talk to or relate to the children. Of course you should have a say in matters of safety and general care but be prepared for some differences between care-giving styles. This helps kids to build resilience.
  • Try not to examine and discuss every little detail. As long as everyone is happy then just go with the flow. There may be some traditions in your partner’s family which you’ll never understand. Just put them down to every family being unique.
  • Don’t criticise grandparents when children are present.
  • Never encourage conflict, backstabbing and nastiness.
  • Try not to be unrealistic.  There’s no such thing as a perfect family and most have some sort of dysfunction. Some families are just better at hiding theirs than others.
  • Don’t assume that if your parents weren’t too interested in you as a child that they will feel the same about your children.  Different circumstances and times can have a very different impact on behaviour

Suggestions for grandparents to connect with grandchildren

  • Play games, read, go for walks. Aim to have fun and laughter.
  • Remember, you aren’t the parent; be considerate and know when to say nothing.
  • Listen to them when they talk.
  • Let them lead the way.
  • Invest time.
  • Ask about their friends.
  • Remember what you talked about last time.
  • Write letters/cards.
  • Be their Facebook friend, if they’ll let you.
  • Get them a pet (check with parents first).
  • Cook together.
  • Make photo books together and show them photos of you when you were younger.
  • Teach them skills like painting, restoring furniture – do projects together.
  • With younger children – go for walks, feed the ducks, go to the museum/art gallery
  • Have them for sleepovers.
  • Let your grandchildren take the lead.  Sometimes it’s enough just to ‘be there’.

This article was written for by Jane Barry from – child health nurse, midwife and parenting columnist and has been adapted for

Do you find that the relationship between your children and their grandparents is a good one?

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  1. dawnblyth 30/09/2019 at 1:15 pm

    My children have a great relationship with their grandparents. My Mum passed away before my youngest was born so he didn’t get to met her but my eldest often talks of Nana and what we did with her. Both my boys are always excited when Granddad – my Dad – comes to stay and he comes to watch their football games on a Saturday morning. When my husband’s parents come up, the boys always want to tell them about things that have been happening. It is great to see the different grandparents and their relationships with the children.

  2. Alezandra 29/09/2019 at 11:44 pm

    My son’s grandmothers (no more grandfathers though as they both passed on) are both living overseas so he doesn’t really get to spend so much time with them except for the occasional visit. There are times when I envy the ones that have grandparents afoot all the time and they get to have this special relationship. But at least we have technology now.

  3. Loucyd3 29/09/2019 at 5:05 pm

    Sadly my children never got to meet their nan( my mum) as she passed away from breast cancer a month before our oldest was born, if she was still here she would have had an amazing relationship with our children as she did with her other grand children, she was very caring and only wanted the best for her grandbabies and always wanted to be around them. My husband’s parents live in France making it hard to develope a relationship with our kids, we talk and face time lots with them so the kids can still build a connection with their grandparents. They enjoy those moments where they can tell their stories, they are very caring grandparents even with the distance between us.

  4. SarahBlair 26/09/2019 at 5:17 pm

    Before we moved away my kids and I had afternoon tea with my parents once a week, it was a great way to catch up and have a relaxing afternoon, everyone enjoyed it. We dont see and of the grandparents much now as we live too far away to see regularly. My eldest daughter still live near to my parent and my grandmother and sees them often. I love that my granddaughter and my grandmother have such a great bond, not many people can say, as Irie will be able to, that they knew their Great, Great Grandmother!!

  5. Bevik1971 26/09/2019 at 4:44 pm

    I totally agree that Grandparents are super important in kids lives if it’s possible. We had our daughter a bit older and her grandparents are all alive but are in their late 60’s and early to mid 70’s and she is only 6, so the time she has with them is precious. Only 1 lives in the same city unfortunately so we try and see them as often as possible. 🙂

  6. Shorrty4life1 25/09/2019 at 12:19 pm

    This is a great read. My two children have a great bond with their grandma and grandad and pop and nana (but nana passed away to cancer which broke them 😥). They have a awesome relationship with great Grandad and great nana hearing about back in my day stuff is pretty cool and interesting for them. But unfortunately theres always one that doesn’t come to the party. They don’t have a good relationship with their nana (dad’s mum) as shes been quite nasty to them so we don’t have anything to do with her now as it was just making the kids angry and upset being treated unfair by her and we didn’t want that sort of negativity around our children.

  7. Micht 24/09/2019 at 6:51 pm

    We crave the closeness of grandparents for our kids like others have…but sadly the move from our country which is an unsafe environment for our kids, also means disconnection from the extended family and grandparents…and although id be the first the admit they can cause issues when their opinions differ…but its still a blessing to hve them and i remember mine so vividly but find i miss that for my kids so desperately.

  8. Mands1980 24/09/2019 at 9:39 am

    There are lots of things to read in here and taken on board. There is also another side to what some things in the what not to do I had the grandparents saying what they did when there kids were little wow things have changed let’s just say things didn’t go down so well. But as the kids have got older the kids can see things as well. They get on a bit better now but it has been a hard struggle over the years.

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