By Kendra Fletcher, Crosswalk.com
Isn’t it exciting to be a grandparent? For many people, grandparenting is the sweet spot of family relationship building and we look forward to the arrival of grandbabies with great expectation.
We have a beautiful opportunity to come alongside our children as they raise their own children, but sometimes we don’t always know the best way to help. As a mom of many and now a new grandmother, I’ve thought long and hard about how to be a blessing to my children and grandchildren in real, practical ways. It’s exciting to know we have a chance to make a measurable impact in the lives of those we love the deepest.
Here are ten practical ways grandparents can bless new parents.
1. Ask, "How can I help?"
Don’t assume you know what the needs are. This one ranks as number one for me because from time to time, someone would come alongside thinking they were helping, but really making my parenting tasks more complicated than relieved.
For example, I know it’s fun to take older children on an outing for the day when a new baby arrives, but sometimes taking the big kids is not helpful at all. Big kids stand in as a big help by doing tasks like prepping lunch for younger siblings or entertaining the toddler while mom is breastfeeding the baby.
By simply asking what would be helpful to a new parent, you can be sure your help is needed and actually helpful!
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2. Bring meals.
Taking dinner to a new parent is one of those great mercies that church communities tend to do well. But what other meals can you bring that will really bless a new mom and dad?
When our third child was born, a friend made a week’s worth of sack lunches for our toddler and preschooler so that I could just sit the boys down at the table and easily grab a lunch for them from the fridge. Grab-and-go breakfast foods are also much appreciated: muffins, granola bars, frozen waffles, hard-boiled eggs... Just be sure, in the spirit of the first helpful idea listed above, that you ask if there are any foods to avoid. If a new mom has to side-step allergies, it isn’t really helpful.
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3. Simplify something that takes too much thought.
New parents tend to get lost in the details because they’re too busy with the immediate putting out of fires; by default, they must consume themselves with the tyranny of the urgent.
Address envelopes for baby gift thank you notes, offer to take her donations to the thrift store, or run her library items back before their due date. Just take the things that someone else can do for her off her plate (and of course, ask if those things are helpful to her).
4. Run laundry.
Run it without commentary on how they do it. Your way may be the best way for you, but there is more than one way to skin a cat (or fold a towel, as it were). Ask as you go along if there is anything you need to know about how he or she does the laundry in their home and emphasize that you don’t want to end up making more work for them by doing something completely unnecessary.
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5. Plan to give a new mom time in her own home, alone.
It’s easy enough to put the newborn in a stroller or baby carrier and take the toddler with you on a leisurely stroll around the block. Stop and smell every rose. Sing and let the toddler jabber on. Talk with the older grandchildren about what they like to do. Take your time. The goal is to give mom at least 30 minutes to herself, alone in her own home. Imagine what it would feel like to take a shower without the kids hanging outside the door!
Along these lines, we can really bless our kids with a date night or two, where they can focus on each other without having to manage children. If you can’t babysit for them, think about taking a date night basket to them, filled with delicious cheeses and gourmet crackers and a pint of ice cream. Have dinner from a favorite restaurant delivered if it’s in your budget, and don’t forget a sack dinner for the kids who can be fed and sent to bed early!
6. Refrain from comparisons.
A mom of a newborn is already feeling uncertain and unsteady. It’s tough to hear, “Well, you know, when your sister had her baby, she...” Listen well and offer input when asked, but keep the comparisons to yourself.
7. Make baby food.
When baby is old enough, ask her parents if you could make and freeze baby food for them. And remember, whatever they choose to feed their baby is the best thing. Just enjoy making the food, packing it in ice cube trays, and delivering it in freezer bags. Homemade teething biscuits and smoothie packs for the freezer are great, too.
8. Ask a new mom how she's feeling emotionally, then pray with her.
Ask her if she’d like you to check in on her via text each day, in case she’s battling postpartum depression. Tell her you are happy to help in whatever way she needs: make the doctor appointment, go with her, stay with the baby, drive her there, etc. Each may be helpful, but ask her what she needs, rather than assuming.
Handwritten notes of encouragement are also appreciated by weary young moms. A simple card with a statement like, “I’m so proud of what an amazing mom you are!” is like oxygen to a new parent who likely feels more like a failure than a success.
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9. Offer to give up a night (or more) of your own sleep.
I know, I know: we did our time, and this suggestion seems particularly painful. In my case, I was up with my own eight newborns over the course of many months and years. Those years seemed endless to me, and I really like sleeping through the night!
But giving up one night to cuddle and settle a fussy newborn or to try to help with bottle feeding could mean the difference between thriving and barely surviving for sleep-deprived parents. If they have older children, no one is allowing them the opportunity to sleep in, sleep while the baby sleeps, or take an uninterrupted nap. While they have to push through the exhaustion each and every day after a sleepless night, we can go home and catch up on the sleep we missed by helping out.
It’s one night. You can do it!
10. Don't make your visits about you.
The weeks after the birth of a baby is the appropriate time for new parents to focus on their own needs. They’re trying their best to keep another human alive and thriving, and if it’s their firstborn, everything is unfamiliar and daunting. Being grandparents with a heart to serve our kids grants us a marvelous opportunity to learn to live a life of others-centeredness, as Christ modeled to us.
Galatians 5:13: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.”
We may desperately want to hold that sweetly sleeping baby, but if mom and dad’s objective is to let baby sleep uninterrupted, we’re thwarting the long term goal. We may not like the way they’ve chosen to schedule-feed, demand-feed, breastfeed, bottle-feed, co-sleep, cry it out, and a myriad of other perennial parenting choices, but it’s not about us. We, as grandparents, need to be about them. Number one fans. Head cheerleaders. Champs in coming alongside our kids as they begin to raise their own.
Enjoy your new role as a grandparent. This truly is the sweet season when we get to have a life of ministry and devotion that will reach far into the future, sending ripples of Christ-like love to our grandchildren, their children, and many more to come!
Kendra Fletcher is a mother of 8, speaker, author, and podcaster. She is the author of Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace, and Leaving Legalism, and she regularly writes for Key Life Ministries. The Fletchers reside in California, where they play in the Pacific Ocean as often as possible. Find her here: www.kendrafletcher.com
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