Child psychologist unveils 'the grandparent code', a list of 12 grandparenting rules to keep family relationships strong and healthy

Some are common sense, others may be a little harder to follow...

Grandfather with his granddaughter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A child psychologist has shared what he calls 'the grandparent code,' a list of 12 vital rules for grandparents to follow that can help ensure their relationship with both their children and grandchildren is as healthy as it can be. 

Being a grandparent is sold as an easier, but just as fulfilling if not more so, endeavour than parenting itself. We've seen the grandma brain phenomenon in action and the benefits of being a grandparent are very real. Research has suggested that looking after grandchildren is better for the brain than Sudoku, while studies prove that children who have a good relationship with their grandparents have less behavioural and emotional problems. It's all good, no? 

Not exactly. Especially today with the focus on grandparents offering necessary and regular help with childcare, it seems that grandparenting is just as fraught with ups and downs as parenting itself. There are lots of rules, mostly unspoken, to follow and the generation gap between grandparent and parent can often open up the floor for some serious disagreements, though many grandparents have positive thoughts about today’s most popular parenting trends

But many still don't. And, as studies have revealed that grandparents who refuse to respect parenting choices and parenting styles may end up paying the ultimate price and getting cut off from the grandchild due to their behaviour, as well as reading up on the grandparenting behaviours to try and avoid, you're going to want to head this expert advice too. 

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, author of the book Grandparents, a practical guide to navigating grandparenting today, has shared his top 12 tips that any grandparent should follow - 12 tips that make up, what he calls, the grandparent code. And, with decades worth of work going into his advice, you'll want to listen up. 

So what are the 12 commandments of the grandparent code? As the expert told Honey;

  • Respond to the pregnancy news with unbridled joy.
  • Honour any request to keep news of the impending birth secret.
  • When your grandchild first comes home, wait to be invited over.
  • Don't give the new parents unsolicited advice.
  • Offer reassurance and encouragement.
  • Don't comment negatively on the name the parents choose for your grandchild.
  • Be positive when you meet the child, and be realistic about your feelings.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your grandchild, and play, if time allows.
  • Manage your grandchild's use of technology.
  • Don't engage in 'grandsharenting' (The practice of sharing online information about grandchildren).
  • Spoil your grandchildren – in consultation with their parents.
  • Handwrite cards and letters to your grandchild.

Now, number one should be easy, number two, a little harder but still doable. Number three? Now that may feel impossible but it's important to let the new family settle in and bond with their baby before surprising them with your presence - and make sure to bring over a thoughtful gift for the new mum when you do.

Similarly, waiting until you've been asked for advice to offer any of your thoughts on parenting is vital. It may be incredibly hard and you'll have to make peace with the fact you may never be asked for input considering that nearly half of the grandparent-aged generation has never been asked for advice. But letting the new parents figure out what they want to do, not what you want them to do, will go miles in keeping your relationship healthy.

Number 11? We can get behind number 11. Spoiling grandchildren, obviously with consent from the parents concerning the gifts, is so exciting as you pick up the best sensory toys for babies and the best toys for 6 to 12 months olds - though don't turn it into a competition with child's other set of grandparents as one set of grandparents is more likely to spoil their grandchildren than the other.

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.