In her first column for Express Parenting, Dr Shyama Chona writes about the joys and challenges of being a grandparent in modern families, which come with their own individual dynamics.
By Shayama Chona
Grandparenting has a grandeur that cannot be explained in words. I can vouch for that as a grandmother of two grand-daughters. They certainly give me greater joy as compared to bringing up their father. However, grandparenting styles differ from family to family, culture to culture and nation to nation.
Nowadays, with the increasing trend of nuclear families, grandparents usually don’t stay with the family and visit to provide occasional treats, but don’t necessarily invest large amounts of time in mentoring or offering advice to parents in bringing up their children. They are actually seeking fun time with the grandchildren and largely remain in their safe haven. They are more relaxed and rather than taking responsibility for grandchildren, they act as supporters and buddies to them. Nonetheless, they always have unconditional love, care and affection to offer, no matter how far they may be. Grandparents play an important role in family life, acting as the tree that gives shade to the entire family.
Over the last few years, grandparents are seen to have more responsibilities due to societal changes. In many families, where both the mother and father are working, children are being solely raised by the grandparents. It’s essential that this changed role should be acceptable to the seniors and they are not considered as baby-sitters. Though every grandparent, I’m sure, when called upon in the hour of need, especially during pregnancies or festival time, would love to do their best. I firmly believe that the seniors have a special role to play in the lives of the children, a role that cannot be replaced by anyone.
Being a grandmother myself, I realise the beautiful role I have, how I love talking to my grand-daughters in a way their parents cannot because I am not as emotionally involved as they are. What I mean is, when parents deal with their children, they are more practical and consider it their duty whereas grandparents are more relaxed and regard the relationship not as a duty but as pleasure. I truly enjoy sharing my life experiences and the wealth of knowledge gained throughout my lifetime with the girls and they really look forward to hearing my real life stories. One thing I consciously remind myself is that I always have to be on guard and not spoil my grand-daughters. I am not one of those who considers it their right to spoil them.
Finally, even the most fabulous grandparents have to follow and stick to the parents’ rules while looking after the children.
Sometimes, grandparents unintentionally create a lot of fears in growing children. They end up giving unnecessary warnings, become over cautious and on occasion even create unnecessary doubts in their minds about their choices, which can be really damaging. Also, some tend to vent their personal nightmares on to the young ones. There are times when they may not even realise how important it is to not to criticise their parents in front of them, since they love them dearly and will always remain their first love. Too many suggestions and free advice can easily be rejected by the younger generation.
It’s important for the older generation to evolve with changing times and not insist on the rules and techniques they applied to their own children. Grandparents can spoil grandchildren by all means but they should not break the rules that have been made by the parents as this would send confusing signals. A general consensus between parents and grandparents is essential for the right upbringing of the children. The seniors have to be in sync with the parenting styles adopted by the parents and I firmly believe that communication and respect is the key to this sync.
(The writer is a Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awardee, an educationist, social activist and former Principal, DPS RK Puram.)
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