After your grandchild is born
Congratulations on the birth of your grandchild. No matter what challenges you faced during the pregnancy, you may find they go into the background when you are with your grandchild. Enjoy this special time.
You are the grandparent not the parent! These two roles have different functions and it important that you do your best to ensure that your son or daughter is given an opportunity to adapt and take on the important role of being a parent. This can be particularly difficult if your teenager and your grandchild are living in the same house as you. It is worth your while investing time in trying to encourage your teenager to be a competent and independent mother or father. You can be your teenager’s mentor and you can teach them valuable parenting and decision making skills. They will need these important skills if and when they ever move out on their own.
Keep up to date.
Parenting and health guidelines change regularly. Try to stay up to date with the new recommendations by reading the new leaflets and booklets on infant health, nutrition and education. These are available at your GP practice, Public Health Nurse Clinic or Teen Parents Support Programme. The internet and your Public library will also have up to date information on babycare issues.
Your teenager may still be in school and may even be due to do important exams. They may have started work and are eager to go back after their maternity leave. Childcare is one of the biggest issues for all parents at this stage. The question is….. who will provide the childcare? You may be willing to do so if you are able. This might not be the case, maybe you are working yourself outside the home or have smaller children yourself. You need to be very open and honest with your teenager about this as early as possible, so that alternative plans can be made if required. (see Childcare section).
If you decide you are going to mind the baby……..
Spending everyday with your grandchild can be a great pleasure and help build a strong relationship between the two of you. However it is still important to work out an agreement with your teenager on what is acceptable to you. You need to decide how much child minding you are willing and able to do. This is a completely individual choice and all situations are different. Consider the following:
- Are you physically able to look after a baby?
- Are you working or have other commitments?
- Do you have other children to care for?
- What hours are you available?
- Do you wish to be paid?
- What about evening or weekend babysitting or for extra study time?
Finding the balance
If you find that you are doing more than you agreed or are able , it is important that you do not let resentment build up. Try to be open and honest as possible and address any difficulties as soon as they arise to avoid unnecessary conflict.
In certain situations you may have to work through your agreement more formally, even writing it down.
If you have other children in the family they may feel excluded or left out if all your energy is focused on the new baby. It would be important to remember to make some special time for them. Try to include them in the day to day care of the baby so they feel more involved.
Caring for a new baby on top of everything else can be exhausting. Try to ensure you get a chance to switch off and get out and about on your own or with friends without babies or children. Keep your own health in check by going to your GP regularly.
Parenting a Parent.
Your teenager is now a parent themselves but they still need guidance and support. They may feel on the other hand that they are now able to do their own thing and may start to rebel against being under your supervision. This can be extremely challenging for parents and very often tensions can escalate within the family. The Teen Parents Support Programme can help you if your relationship with your teenager is becoming a challenge. It may be a case of working with the young people and their parents separately, initially, and then eventually attempt mediation when conflict has eased.
If you have concerns
While many young parents cope very well, some young parents find it difficult to manage the transition to parenthood. They may be unable to cope with the extra demands and responsibilities it brings. This may be more likely if they have moved out of the family home. If your support is not enough and the young parent is still not able to care properly for their child, you may need to seek outside help. Try to be clear about whether it is just that the young parent is doing things differently to what you would yourself, or that you have a real concern. If you genuinely feel that your grandchild is not being cared for properly it is important ask your GP, Public Health Nurse or a social worker for advice on the matter. They may be able to guide you on ways to deal with the particular situation, or offer additional support through their service.