Grandparents and extended family

How can the baby’s extended family help?

Grandparents and other members of the extended family have a lot to offer: experience, enthusiasm, emotional support, and practical resources. Unfortunately, the birth of a baby may bring new conflict or exacerbate previous ones. Good communication is the key.

A) Moving into a new role

Children, their mothers, and immediate caregivers benefit from having an involved extended family; they can provide experience, enthusiasm, knowledge, emotional support, and practical resources.

After the birth of the baby, new mothers and partners need time to learn how to be parents, and other family members may also need time to adjust to their new roles. Indeed, all are on a steep learning curve. Expectations about roles can vary greatly between cultures

With the birth of a grandchild, grandparents are able to take a step back from parenting and watch their own child and the baby form a new family. They don’t have to worry about all the details and everyday stresses of raising a child. Rather, they have the chance to help, support, and love them all while having their own life (Scelza 2019).

B) Managing conflict

The birth of a baby comes with new opportunities but also with some challenges and stresses. Old conflicts may be renewed and new ones may appear.

Some of the issues extended family members may face include:

  • A desire to fix perceived mistakes they made as parents.
  • Disagreement with decisions about life-choices or parenting
  • Health and financial challenges
  • Cultural differences
  • Not being comfortable seeing the mother breastfeed.

As with all change, good communication in a safe, respectful, and non-critical manner is the key. If there are particular areas of conflict, consider discussing these when everyone is calm. A neutral person can help in difficult conversations.

References

Scelza BA, Hinde K. Crucial Contributions : A Biocultural Study of Grandmothering During the Perinatal Period. Hum Nat. 2019;30(4):371‐397