Tips for Grandparents

By: PACER Center

When a child is born or diagnosed with disabilities, parents are not alone in their concerns. Grandparents are often anxious, too, not only for their grandchild, but for their child whose life is affected by the baby. Many grandparents and parents have been interviewed to ask how grandparents can best help their children and grandchildren.

Here are some tips.

  1. Offer support, but don't hover…

    Unconditional love and support are very important for the parents. They are making very important decisions about many things in the early days and it helps a great deal to know that they have that unconditional support and love of the people who love them.

  2. Ask how you can help in practical matters…

    If the grandparents don't know how to help the family, please say so. Ask what the family needs help with. Sometimes it's the very practical matters in which the grandparents can assist, such as baby-sitting the siblings, providing some meals, etc. One set of grandparents used their sewing and carpentry talents to make special equipment for the baby. Another grandparent accompanied her daughter to many of the medical appointments, providing moral support and extra set of ears and hands. This also allowed the grandparent to learn first hand about the disability.

  3. Learn as much about the disability or diagnosis as possible…

    Becoming informed will show you want to be involved. Ask if there are any books or articles to read up on. Learning about it will reduce some of the fear you may experience.

  4. Offer opinions only if asked…

    One parent felt that the grandparents thought she wasn't doing enough, or doing the right things. Do your best to let them know they are doing a good job.

  5. Accept your grandchild as he or she is…

    First and foremost he or she is a child, who should be loved unconditionally. Don't gloss over their difficulties but try to treat them just like all your grandchildren.

As grandparents, you can offer your children much love and support through this difficult time. You will even find that there are many positive aspects to this that you may not have expected to find.

Adapted from PACER Center's "Early Childhood Connection"