What is the difference between parents and grandparents? Are there boundaries we should keep in mind when grandparenting?

FFL Council Member Albert Lim and his wife Alison who are proud grandparents to two young granddaughters share their thoughts on what grandparenting means to them.

Albert and Alison point out that the journeys as grandparents and parents are different. But as Albert notes, they share a common goal with their daughter and son-in-law, which is to build a sense of identity and security in the youngest members of their family.

The 4Rs of grandparenting

When it comes to navigating the boundaries between grandparents and parents, Alison says that they try to keep in mind the 4Rs:

Role – The older couple acknowledges that the parents are the primary care-givers, while grands play the supporting role in the caregiving of the children.

Responsibility – Parents are ultimately responsible for their children. While grandparents wield some influence, the final decision will always lay with the parents.

Rules – Alison points out that grandparents tend to be more relaxed with the grandkids, but they try to follow the rules their daughter and son-in-law set for the children. “So, this may mean no Ribena for the toddler, or no trips to 7-11 after school for the older one.”

Respect for each other – The most important rule of all.

Managing intergenerational differences

When differences arise, Alison encourages grandparents and parents to have one-on-one conversations with each other to clarify issues and establish common ground, because their goals of bringing up the children are the same.

When it comes to managing the sibling relationship between their granddaughters, Alison says, “We stay aware of sibling rivalry and seize every opportunity to reduce it by framing things in a positive way. For example, I will point out to my older granddaughter: See, mei-mei (little sister) is so happy to see you when you come home from school. You’re so blessed to have a sister like her. This helps to reinforce the notion that they care for one other.”

Albert agrees: “We’re very intentional in making sure that our older granddaughter feel equally loved, while at the same time reminding her that she has a sister that loves her”

Self-reflection is also key in managing differences between adults. Alison recalls an incident where her granddaughter observed that the adults at home are always angry. At first, she assumed that her granddaughter was referring to her own parents and lauded herself as a good role model.

But when she asked, she realised that her granddaughter was referring to her because she had raised her voice at her own daughter. To Alison, it was a good reminder not to judge her own child as a parent and to be more mindful of her own behaviour in front of the little ones.

Lessons as grandparents

What were the lessons the couple has learnt on their grandparenting journey?

For Alison, it was to continue expressing love to her own daughter. In fact, she took six months off work to support her daughter when her granddaughter was born.

For Albert, his older granddaughter’s behaviour was a poignant reminder of his daughter’s behaviour when she was young, and he relishes the chance to show the same affection to the little ones.

For the couple, getting hands-on in grandparenting have reaped intangible benefits. As Alison shares, “Talking about our grandchildren has helped to build intimacy between us. We find great joy in grandparenting, and this helps to keep us close as a couple.”

The original content of this interview was taken from a CNA938 Family Ties Conversation. For more parenting tips, visit www.familiesforlife.sg or check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page.