Not How it Was

In just one generation, grandparenting has changed in significant ways.

As a result, grandparenting looks very different to the way our parents did it.

What makes the difference is –

  • The choices our children make concerning when they produce offspring
  • Our children’s decisions over work
  • The changes in technology, and
  • The way our world is now.

As a result, the way we relate to our grandchildren is vastly different to the way our parents related with theirs.

This can lead to today’s grandparents wrongly thinking they must replicate the way their parents grandparented, when the circumstances have changed considerably.

  • Grandchildren Arriving Later

    On average, our children today are having children about 10 years later than we did.

    In the past, children born to parents in their early 20s had grandparents who were in their 50s. These grandparents were –

    • Still at work and therefore not free for childcare,
    • Agile enough to cope with toddlers when they came round,
    • Dealing with children, rather than babies and toddlers, when retirement came.

    Have you found yourself spending half a lifetime trying to strap a toddler into a car seat – putting your back out in the process? Or driven home from the park with the buggy still up in the boot? Then you will understand.

    It is all so very different to taking a 7-year-old to play on the swings on a Saturday morning.

  • More Working Mothers

    Our parents’ generation assumed – good or bad – that a mother’s place was in the home. Childcare was down to her.

    That has changed, with the number of UK working mothers surging by 1.2 million over the past 20 years. There is also the impact of higher levels of shift working for both parents.

    That, together with the souring cost of child care, adds another level of expectation on today’s grandparents. In fact, one in three UK families now depend on grandparents for some degree of childcare.

  • Major Sociological Change

    It could be argued that things are simply different today. But some of those changes impact the world of grand-parenting.

    Technologically: There’s a world of difference between a game of Fish and trying to navigate an X-Box. Though at least there can be a little one to help you down load apps.

    The rhythm of life: Once Sunday was a day for families – whether church was involved or not. But this window to engage with grandchildren, including over a meal, has largely been lost.

    Greater expectations: Today’s parents of young children seem to have created a vocabulary of their own – including the new concept of ‘date night’. And even, ‘we need a few days away together without the kids’. Something their parents never experienced has somehow become an expectation that involves grandparents stepping up to the plate.

    Blended families: With increased levels of divorce and remarriage, there’s the added complexity of sometimes three sets of grandparents – or even four. And the challenge to be a grandparent to children you haven’t known since birth.

    Single parents: The increase of grandchildren born to mothers without partners generates added levels of responsibility in the realm of grand-parenting.

    Longer lives: With own parents living longer, many grandparents carry a responsibility for three generations. This would be their own increasingly frail parents, their own now ‘grow-up’ children, and their grandchildren.

  • It's Not All Bad News!

    Different doesn’t always mean bad. In fact there are ways in which the change between our parents’ generation and ours can enrich grandparenting.

    More money: Though it is not universally true, many grandparents today have money at their disposal their parents could never imagine. Wise savings, healthy pensions, downsized housing releasing money, and more have played their part.

    This offers opportunities for greater generosity, special treats and even time away together.

    Staying young longer: Baby-boomer grandparents have a very different outlook on life to that of their pre-war parents. They are more chilled, more open to adventure and new things, greater consumers of media, and more. This opens up the way to closer relationships with grandchildren.

    Thank God for Skype: In the past, if grandparents did not live close by, encounters with their grandchildren could be sparse. The occasional visit, phone call, or post card, could be all there was.

    Now the wonders of Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp and more are brilliant aids to long-distance communication. And a savvy grandparent will be sure to master the skills and put them to good use to generate the kind of regular contact not possible before.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife