As a working grandad, Dr Daniel Fung often finds himself in a time crunch, juggling his schedule to find time to spend with his three grandchildren.
“The relationship that you have with your grandchildren, just like any other relationship, requires time and effort,” said Dr Fung, child psychiatrist and head of the Institute of Mental Health and member of Families for Life's Advisory Panel on Parenting.
For him, grandparenting is a mix of playing and loving his grandchildren, and maintaining a balance, and avoiding overstepping boundaries. This means respecting the preferences of the grandchild’s parents, regarding things like food or how the grandchild is to be put to sleep.
“Be aware of your role as a grandparent. It's not just about the direct caregiving duties, but also about respecting all the rules and regulations that parents may have set,” said Dr Fung.
“We can't usurp the authority of parents, as how we relate indirectly teaches the grandchildren about authority.”
Choosing to disrespect parenting decisions can negatively affect grandchildren, who think rules can be broken.
One way to nurture a healthy relationship between grandparents and parents is to be aware of the parents’ perspective – through open conversations. In these conversations, both grandparents and parents can air their perspectives and agree on the issue. This can help to avoid conflicts and hurt feelings.
Passing on culture and heritage
Besides building that unique bond, grandparents are pivotal in nurturing the cultural heritage of their grandchildren.
Grandparents are perfect for passing down cultural heritage, as they know the family history and heritage, and can be storytellers of the past.
“Grandparents have a role in nurturing and moulding the next generation in a very meaningful way,” said Dr Fung. He suggests that one way is to use technology like a social media app to record and share stories. This helps to build in grandchildren an awareness and a sense of pride and understanding of their heritage.
In addition to passing on cultural heritage, technology offers opportunities for communication and bonding. This can be through emails, video calls and social media platforms, allowing grandparents to cut across time zones and close geographical gaps to connect with their grandkids.
Video calls have helped Dr Fung to connect with his grandkids while they are far apart, allowing him to stay in touch more frequently, besides the weekly gatherings.
“I enjoy that even if I'm not around, I can actually ‘drop in’ [through a video call]. With technology, you can connect very instantaneously,” said Dr Fung.
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.