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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Diplomatic Guide for Grandparents

Grandparents have a role in the lives of their grandchildren, but what exactly is that role? Let your adult children take the lead and discuss your expectations with them.

Grandparents Shouldn't Have to Compete for Access to Grandkids continued...

She describes a set of grandparents who felt excluded. They negotiated a new tradition with the parents. At nine years of age, each child would be eligible for a special two-week summer visit with the grandparents. "This became something all the children looked forward to, almost a 'coming of age' ritual that the grandparents helped guide the grandchildren through."

In another family, one set of grandparents resented the fact that the grandkids spent every summer at the cottage of the other grandparents. So they all sat down to talk. "The parents had recently divorced, and they decided the children needed the stability and memories of summers at the cottage," says Bosak. "It was agreed that the grandparents who felt left out would get the grandchildren during Christmas and Spring break for short excursions."

Spoil the Child

Spoiling grandchildren a little is a good thing, says Bosak. "Maybe you weren't able to spend as much time as you wanted with your children when they were young, and having grandchildren feels like a second chance. Children know that being with you is special, and they don't expect the rest of the world to treat them that way, so it's not really spoiling. It's the kind of positive attention that builds self-esteem and helps children resist peer pressure as they get older."

No One Can Exploit You Without Your Permission

Feel like you retired to a new career as babysitter? If you're putting your own life on hold and resenting every minute of it, the grandkids probably aren't seeing you at your best. It's time to talk with the parents. Better yet, talk about expectations before the child is born, says Bosak. "How involved do grandparents want to be? How involved do parents want the grandparents to be? See whether you can all start on the same page, and keep the lines of communication open as the grandchildren and relationships grow."

Gross rarely turns down an opportunity to babysit, but at the same time she is busy with her work as a personal historian. She and her husband own Legacy Prose, a service that turns personal narratives into memoirs in books and videos. "I've told my daughter-in-law that if there is an emergency, I'll drop anything because there's nothing more important to me than you and those kids. But if you'd just rather take one kid to the doctor and not drag the other one, I might say 'no.'"

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