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Love/Relationship Columnist Author: Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC - Love/Relationship Columnist - Last Updated: Dec 21, 2013 - 11:25:48 AM

7 Ways Grandparents Can Still Have Their Own Life After Grandchildren

By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC - Love/Relationship Columnist -
Dec 23, 2013 - 12:01:00 AM

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( - Most couples raise their children and look forward to being grandparents with grandchildren near. In fact, one of the sweetest relationships is the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. Grandparents give their grandchildren a sense of security, importance and adoration. This is important in today's ever changing world. Many kids tell me that even when their parents split, grandma and grandpa were there and helped them feel secure and reassured that it would be okay. Grandparents are better listeners than parents, because they know the importance of the little things, and no longer fret the day-to-day worries of raising children.

Grandparents are getting younger and younger, and with that, many times they are still involved with their careers when the grandchildren come. This makes saying no to their kids and opting out of babysitting difficult. Many times their grown children can make them feel guilty or incompetent when being compared to grandparents of the past. Grandparents are feeling the heat, and recently when I was chatting with a few viewers from Fox 26 they asked me a difficult question. The question was, "Must I give up my life to babysit for my grandchildren?"

From the moment they see their little grandbaby, most people are wrapped around their grandchild's fingers. Communicating with your kids prior to the baby's arrival will help ease the transition of how much care you are willing and expected to give.  Understanding that the new parents need time alone with their baby, as well as with each other without their baby, will help you know when is the best time to offer help. If you feel as though your life is gone, and you have become a glorified babysitter or housekeeper for your grandchildren, these suggestions can help you set boundaries with your children.

Tips for Grandparents to establish and continue their own life while enjoying their grandchildren:

1.      Make a calendar and share it on Google or email with your kids. If you have a favorite exercise class, or class you are taking, make sure it is on the calendar.

2.      List work days and make sure you give yourself a couple of hours to yourself after work before you schedule the kids.

3.      Keep your "girls nights, date night, and family days" intact in your own marriage. Those times are not frivolous. They are important to your mental health and your marriage's health.

4.      Pick out at least one night a month to take the grandbabies so you can relieve your kids and allow them a date night in their marriage.

5.      If you choose to take the kids for a whole weekend, make sure it is a weekend you planned. Don't take drop-ins unless it's an emergency.

6.      Be fair with your time. Playing favorites doesn't work with raising children, and it causes more family tension when kids notice you are using it with their siblings.

7.      Grandparents should also have a backup plan just as parents should. Finding a babysitter in your area for the times you want to help out, but need an additional plan is wise.

Grandparents are so important to their grandchild's life, but the more grandparents feel loved and needed rather than used, the more effective they are. If you are being used by your children to babysit their children, then you are the only one who can change being used to being loved and needed. -Mary Jo Rapini

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