A wonderful grandparent

Here are ten pointers on top-notch grandparenting, from those in the know.

Congratulations, you’re expecting… a grandchild. We’re thrilled for you. Becoming a grandparent means so many exciting times ahead. All the kisses and cuddles and the pitter-patter of tiny feet on your floors once more. Yet being a supportive grandparent can be a change of lifestyle. Say hello to drool, poo and grubby fingers. Again.

1. Enjoy having more time and less pressure

First time around you might have been juggling a new baby, a mortgage, a job, a husband. Now you likely have more free time on your hands. Enjoy this precious time – how wonderful to not have those same pressures any more. Many grandparents we speak to say they are much more present this time around. So enjoy every little moment of discovery – theirs and yours.

2. Get giggly

“I think the best thing about being a granddad is enjoying the fun moments, and not having to make the big parenting decisions. Be silly with your grandbabies. Make the most of pulling faces and making funny noises. As I’m sure you well know from the first time around, it goes so fast.” James, grandfather to twins Phoebe and Dora, 19 months

3. Complement, don’t compete

Identify your skills versus that of mum, dad, other granny. If they’re all over helping your grandchild with reading, then you could bring show tunes to the party. If they’ve got music classes covered but don’t have much time for playing building blocks with the baby, well you’ve found your forte (building forts). You’ve got a more objective view as you’re not in the middle of it all 24/7. And so have the time to recognise these things and carve your niche.

4. Be kind to new mums (and dads):

“Don’t tell new parents they look tired. No one takes kindly to that. I found out the hard way with a death stare from my son like no other. He forgave me, and now I just use words of encouragement, which are (of course) far more constructive.” Maggie, grandma to Lawrence, five, and Dexter, three months

5. Sit back and observe

“Don’t interfere. I found it hard seeing my daughter under so much strain after she had children. She was trying to juggle everything, I felt it was too much and I told her that. I had her best interests at heart. But she was angry with me for interfering and it damaged our relationship for a while. I wish I hadn’t got involved. She was able to work through things herself.” Barbara, nana to Esme, one year

6. Don’t mind the mess

“Kids are messy, there’s not a lot you can do about that. I invested in a few temporary measures to make my house a little bit more baby friendly. I got a cheap highchair, some wipe-clean floor coverings, and moved precious items out of reach before any visits. This may seem extreme, but it meant I was more relaxed. And the parents were more at ease too, knowing the risk of damage wasn’t too high.” Anne, granny to Dylan and James, nine months

7. There are no winners or losers

Remember that it’s not a competition. You may feel envious if there’s another grandparent who lives closer and so gets to spend more time with the family. Or if someone else seems to always be buying the favoured gifts. Don’t compare yourself to them. You have a unique bond with your grandchild, and it’s up to you how you build it – in your own way.

8. Step away from the sweets

The temptation to pamper your grandchild is high. While the occasional treat is not to be frowned upon, be careful not to over-indulge. It will make it more difficult for the parents when you are not around.

9. No distance dramas

“We live a few hours’ drive from our grandchildren so don’t see them too frequently. If you’re a long distance grandparent too, don’t worry. You can still build a wonderful relationship with them. We plan visits as often as we can, and we do our homework before we go, to ensure we’ve got fun activities planned for when we see them.

“Video calls are a fun way to keep in touch between visits. We also like to be old fashioned and send them things in the post every now and then.” Frank, grandad to Flora, four, and Wilf, two years

10. Get a life

“At first, I found it a bit hard to turn off from being a grandparent when the visit was over. It’s so different to being a parent, when the baby becomes your whole life. I found that having plenty of other things organised for myself helped with this.” Denise, granny to Eloise, five, and Logan, one year

This page was last reviewed in September 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. 

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby. To find out when an NCT nearly new sale is happening near you, search here.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

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