Mind the Gap: What No One Tells You About Becoming a Grandparent

By Cindy Carr, founder of mySysters

Family Dynamics–or Dynamite?

Grandma, Gigi, Nonni, Nana.

Whatever name she goes by, a grandmother was first the mother of the sweet grandbaby’s parent, and as I enter that era myself, I look around and see my friends gingerly navigating this new relationship with their daughters and sons.

We expect a seamless transition into grandparenthood, only to find our adult children lecturing us about parenting skills–or our sudden lack thereof.

One of my friends happily agreed to babysit her infant granddaughter for an afternoon.

She was speechless when the new parents handed her the diaper bag along with three pages of typed, single-spaced instructions, including a section titled If The Baby Cries.

“You’d think I’d never seen a baby before,” she told me later.

We are, however, determined to not repeat the mistakes of our parents and in-laws who were, of course, far more intrusive and bossy than we intend to be as grandparents.

This leaves us a bit flummoxed as to how to proceed.

How do we forge better relationships with our grandchildren and adult children?

Shifting Roles and Expectations

As families progress through time, the dynamics within them undergo significant transformations.

The journey from being parents of adult children and potentially to grandparents involves a complex interplay of roles and expectations that can challenge even the most cohesive family units.

This evolution is not just about the addition of new members through birth or marriage but also about the inevitable shift in relationships as each member grows and their life paths diverge.

**From Parenthood to Grandparenthood **

As parents we’ve spent decades nurturing and guiding our children and must now adapt to a new phase where our role becomes less central.

The anticipation of grandparenthood brings its own set of expectations, colored by societal norms, personal dreams, and the experiences of our peers.

This transition can be a source of joy but also of uncertainty, as the reality may not always align with our preconceived expectations.

Adult Children’s Independence

As children grow into adulthood, they forge their own identities, make independent life choices, and may start their own families.

These decisions can redefine family relationships, requiring us as parents to adjust our expectations and accept new boundaries.

The challenge for many parents is to support our adult children’s autonomy while finding a new balance in our relationship.

Cultural and Societal Influences

Changes in societal norms and cultural expectations also play a significant role in shaping family dynamics.

The increasing acceptance of diverse family structures, career prioritization, and the decision by many adult children to delay or opt out of parenthood altogether can lead to discrepancies between the expectations of different generations.

I’m fortunate to have a diverse group of friends, including friends who had children while they were very young, friends who had children in middle age and friends who chose to not have children at all.

All of them have full, happy lives.

There is no ‘right’ way to build a life and lecturing adult children on how they ‘should’ be doing it (e.g. ‘When I was your age I was pregnant with my second child…’) will only drive them away.

One couple delayed having children for eight years and stopped attending family gatherings because their parents would ask, ‘Are you pregnant yet?’ every time they walked through the door.

What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

Fostering Empathy

Empathy lies at the heart of navigating these evolving dynamics.

By striving to understand the perspectives, challenges, and motivations of our adult children, we can cultivate a deeper connection and mitigate potential conflicts.

Empathy also helps in managing our own expectations and in adjusting to new family realities.

Prioritizing Understanding

Understanding each other requires a conscious effort to listen and to recognize the validity of each other’s feelings and choices.

It’s about accepting that the paths of our adult children may diverge significantly from what we might have envisioned or hoped for.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of adapting to changing family dynamics.

Open, honest, and respectful dialogues can bridge gaps in expectations and foster a supportive environment.

It involves not just talking but listening—truly hearing what the other person has to say without judgment.

By doing so, families can strengthen their bonds, respect individual choices, and celebrate the richness of their evolving relationships.

mySysters is an app for women in perimenopause and menopause. Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day named mySysters the Best App for Women in Perimenopause and a Must Have App for Women.

The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Cindy Moy Carr is the founder and CEO of Vorsdatter Limited which created mySysters, the first app for women in perimenopause. Cindy is an attorney, journalist and author, including the ABA’s Guide to Healthcare Law.