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Quiz: What is your grandparenting style?
(take-charge, connected, anxious?)

The grandparent role is often imbued with a fairy godmother (or father) quality. Grandparents can be wise, kind and offer an experienced perspective. But they can also be perceived as over-bearing or as worry warts! Like parents, grandparents come in different shapes and sizes. And grandparents rarely have an opportunity to look at their reactions objectively to determine whether they are having the effect they intend. Hurt feelings may be the first sign that something has gone wrong between the generations.

With the differences in the generations, philosophies of parenting change and can result in misunderstandings, rather than satisfying connections. Paying attention to the manner in which you relate to your grandchild’s parents is as important as the connection you forge with your grandchild. Whether a grandparent’s involvement promotes connection depends on whether it is perceived as helpful or intrusive by the parents. After all, it is the parents who have the responsibility to lead their families. Grandparents have had their turn at leadership, and are best enjoyed as a valuable natural resource (unless circumstances dictate a more active parenting role).

Akin to a midwife, a grandparent can empathize and support the process, but it is the parents who must do the real labor of parenthood! Take the quiz below to determine the type of grandparenting style you bring to your family, and tips on what to watch out for, in your grandparent role.

1. You find out that your 3 year old grandson is sleeping with his parents. When the parents complain about not getting enough sleep, you:

a) bring up the sleeping arrangement and suggest it is time for him to sleep in his own bed, as your children did with no problem.

b) sympathize with their situation, and ask more about it, sharing your own experiences as a parent.

c) research everything on methods of sleeping in children, and bring them to the attention of the parents to help them solve their problem.

2. You shop for a gift for your 5 year old grandson’s birthday. You are most likely to:

a) use this opportunity to buy him a sword he wants and cries for, even though you know his mother disapproves of toy weapons.

b) purchase a toy or game you have coordinated with his parents, and believe he will enjoy .

c) Buy several educational toys after reading about the benefits they provide for the child’s development.

3. You are concerned that your grandchild is not gaining weight. You find out that your daughter-in-law is still breastfeeding her 14 month old daughter. You:

a) share with her that you raised your own children on the bottle with no problem, comment on your grandchild’s weight and suggest she stop breastfeeding.

b) ask about your grandchild’s last well-baby visit to find out how she is doing, and what your daughter-in-law’s experience and beliefs about breastfeeding are

c) You believe that she is doing the wrong thing to breastfeed at this age, so you say nothing. But you research the benefits and drawbacks of this choice for your own peace of mind.

4. You are planning on having your 4 year old granddaughter for an overnight, while her parents go out of town. Her parents give you a schedule of her nap time, foods she eats, and ones to avoid because they say she gets “cranky” with too much sugar. You:

a) give in to your granddaughter’s whining to stay awake, rather than nap, and take her for ice cream for a treat as a reward for doing what you say.

b) cooperate with the plan and schedule her parents give you with attention to enjoyable activities you can do with your grandchild.

c) follow the plan, and also make your own plan to hire a clown to come over to your house for a special puppet show so that your grandchild has a special time and does not miss her parents too much.

5. Your daughter and son-in-law bring their family (grandchildren 2 and 4) to your July 4th party at your home. You:

a) expect the parents to watch and monitor their children without adjusting your environment.

b) toddler proof your home as much as possible, putting precarious items out of reach and creating a safe place for children to play with toys and puzzles appropriate to their ages.

c) create a safe place, buy new toys for your grandchildren and spend all of your time taking care of your grandchildren to give their parents a rest, rather than visiting with friends you have invited.

Scoring: a=1; b=2; c=3

What's your quiz point total?
5-7 Take charge

Watch out! Your opinions are clearly right for you, but they may get you into trouble! Unless your beliefs and child rearing philosophy are a match, you will likely create conflict rather than involvement. Use the opportunity of grandparenting to learn about new ideas, even if they are not ones you were familiar with as a parent. Consider staying involved, but tempering your voice, soliciting more from your children about their experience, rather than telling them what to do. And take time to consider what the needs of grandchildren will be when you visit with them. Make an effort to connect with them on their terms and adopt the role of a midwife, supporting rather than taking charge of the parenting process.

8-12 Connected
Looking at ways the next generation may improve upon the past does not threaten you. In fact you may find it stimulating! Your involvement is welcome and creates little conflict. You are a good listener and you share your beliefs without judging others. Sharing your experiences and struggles as a parent are important. But you are likely to be perceived as supportive, rather than critical, most of the time. When feelings to get hurt, you are likely to adjust your own position, rather than polarize. Keep up the good work, and you will no doubt enjoy a very satisfying role as a grandparent!

13-15 Anxious
Your role as a grandparent is a valuable one. You go the extra mile, without even being asked. As long as you are enjoying your involvement, it is a plus for everyone. Still, your enthusiasm for the role could sometimes leave you drained instead of fulfilled. And parents could sometimes get agitated with the ways you express your concern. Be careful not to step on toes by being too proactive! Stay involved, but take a step back, if you feel overwhelmed. Do not be shy to take care of yourself, rather than burn out. Leave parenting to the parents. After all, the parents are the ones who should worry. It is your turn to enjoy!

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