Adjusting to a new role

Your parents, as well as you, need to adjust to their new role once a baby is born. If your relationship with your own parents was strong before you had children, you'll soon realise that their wisdom and experience are invaluable.

Don't let distance keep you apart

Modern grandparents tend to live much further away from their grandchildren these days than before. But that shouldn't stop them playing an active part in your children's early years. If it is difficult for them to come to you, visit them regularly or stay for a weekend. Children benefit by seeing your good relationship with your own parents. And if it hasn't always been easy in the past, a new grandchild's arrival is a good time to start building bridges in your relationship.

A more relaxed role

The grandparent-child relationship is less formal than it used to be. Children these days may have less respect for their elders, but, on the positive side, this means that grannies and granddads are viewed as individuals rather than just '˜old people'.

Grandparents are more often asked to help with childcare, too. Many take on a major role during the week, if both parents work. It will help to build a wonderful bond between the generations, if grandparents can help out without being taken for granted.

Benefits of not being 'mum'

A grandparent can't replace you, but, as they don't change every nappy and feed every meal, they bring a fresh approach and renewed energy. A grandparent's role isn't about discipline; they're no longer harassed parents; they have time to talk, to provide treats and cuddles, to have fun.

Your changing relationship with your parents

As grandparents develop a relationship with your child, so your relationship with your parents changes. You'll probably stop being so cross with your own parents: they may have made the odd mistake, but as you'll have discovered, it's impossible to be a perfect parent.

Friction can arise if you feel your parents are critical of your parenting style, but often they'll end up admiring your abilities and accept that you know best for your own children.

And don't feel it's only your mum who has a lot to offer – dads can often be a huge support, too.

Tips for a grand relationship

  • Involve grandparents early – they'll become relaxed with your child more quickly.

  • Offer gentle pointers like: 'She seems most relaxed when I hold her like this.'

  • Establish how much help they're happy to give and show appreciation – they do have their own lives, too.

  • Sit down and talk about how you do things – grandparents can try to take over.

  • Try not to hover – does it matter if they sneak her a couple of extra spoons of dessert?

  • Help your child to keep in touch – a finger painting is just as good as writing.