Most of the time, being a grandparent is a truly joyous experience. However, this is not always the case for those who are step-grandparents – either to a child’s stepchildren or a new spouse’s biological grandchildren.
Due to high divorce rates and blended families, the chances of most grandparents becoming step-grandparents are increasing on a daily basis. There are currently more step-families in the United States than original intact families. As a matter of fact, half of the United States’ 60 million children who are under 13 currently live with one of their own biological parents and that parent’s current partner. With such a high number of step-grandparents, here are a few tips to make your new role as happy and healthy as possible:
• Modify your expectations for the relationship
Many family members mistakenly believe they must love each other in order to have a healthy and happy family. Love is an emotion that cannot be forced or rushed. For seniors who love their step-grandchildren, things are already wonderful. However, for those seniors who do not love their step-grandchildren, that is also acceptable. The key to success is for seniors to consistently offer kindness, compassion and respect to step-grandchildren. No more and no less should be
expected. In time, this can lead to love.
• Be considerate
There can often be a real sense of competition between stepsiblings. Some siblings receive more birthday presents or more expensive holiday gifts from wealthy relatives. Without meaning to do so, grandparents can sometimes exacerbate these types of differences by favoring biological grandchildren. For example, lavishing biological grandchildren with expensive gifts and ignoring step-grandchildren can cause problems among step siblings. It can also create hurt feelings for
those very young step-grandchildren that may not yet understand the differences of their various grandparents. Seniors are not required to buy gifts of equal value for every grandchild and step-grandchild, but should always plan to purchase gifts for each of them.
• Never take things personally
For those seniors who feel their efforts to build a positive relationship with step-grandchildren are consistently turned down, it is natural to experience hurt feelings. Try to understand that children may reject attention and love for reasons that have nothing to do with the current situation. Children can often feel they already have two sets of grandparents and do not need a third set. On the other hand, some children may unconsciously feel the need to maintain an emotional distance from “new” relatives to avoid feeling disloyal to biological relatives. These feelings can require time to overcome. Seniors must accept these situations as temporary and never take the child’s initial reaction or rejection personally.