General Principles

Mistakes are expected. They offer an opportunity for growth and learning. They must be acknowledged, discussed, and learned from. Doing this sets a great example.

  • Becoming a grandparent involves a great deal of personal growth.
  • Grandparenting involves a direct relationship with a grandchild and a supportive role with parents.
  • Grandchildren are a gift from parent to grandparent

Mistakes Grandparents Make Within Themselves:

Not Understanding;

  • Becoming a grandparent makes one a new person; that having a grandchild transforms a new grandparent in terms of identity, roles and relationships. Not recognizing that changes take place within the grandparent’s psyche and with their relationship to the new parent, especially their own child. Remedy; prepare for grandparenthood by self-examination and family discussion. Discuss the new, three-generational family with new parents.
  • what being a grandparent is all about; what parents and grandchildren need. Remedy; review one’s experience as a grandchild, experiencing one’s own parents as grandparents, assess social attitudes toward grandparenting.
  • That grandparenting requires growth and learning. Changes in personality and attitude are necessary to be an effective grandparent. Remedy; humility and self-examination, asking family members to comment on behaviors, identify what attitudes and traits need to be worked on.

Mistakes Grandparents Make With Grandchild’s Parents

  • Not realizing that parents are the linchpins of grandparent’s relationship with grandchildren: Remedy; keep on good terms with children and especially in-laws.
  • Not listening to parents and respecting their right to make their own mistakes and learn from them. Not understanding the insecurities of new parents and being controlling, bossy, critical, judgmental, non-supportive: Remedy; work on being kind, understanding, compassionate, non-judgmental, supportive, loving and caring.
  • Not communicating openly with new parents. Not offering leadership concerning the family as a “team,” and setting a positive example. Remedy; be the communication center of your family. Hold regular family meetings to assess family members’ needs and develop coping strategies. Show children and grandchildren how to be excellent grandparents.
  • Not being personally in balance as far as priorities are concerned, thus not being available when needed: Remedy; realign personal priorities– roles as individual, worker, parent, grandparent, child, spouse etc. — to include time for grandparenting.
  • Not putting oneself in parents’ shoes to understand their experience. Remedy; spend time alone with all family members and share their world; visit their worksite, organizations and activities that interest them, know their friends, etc.

Mistakes Grandparents Make With Grandchildren

Staying a parent and not becoming a grandparent; Remedy; understand the difference between what parents and grandparent do.

Not understanding their importance to their grandchildren; Remedy; respecting and understanding the importance of how grandchildren view their grandparents.

Not spending one-to-one time alone with grandchildren; not giving a grandchild personal attention, especially when parents or others are around. Remedy; understanding the strong need grandchildren have to absorb their grandparent’s essence and legacy, and planning time to allow this to happen.

Worrying about entertaining their grandchildren. Remedy, understanding the concept of “unconditional love.” Learning to be relaxed with grandchildren and understanding that this is a spontaneous, relaxed, “being” relationship.

Not sharing the grandchild’s world; Remedy; attend the grandchild’s school, visit the doctor, take the child to events and places, know his/her friends, learn new technology.

Not keeping in constant contact with grandchildren, not understanding that children live in the now and that they grow and change every day.


  • Keep up-to-date.
  • Use whatever is available to keep in constant touch with the grandchild, phone, fax, E-Mail.
  • Send pictures, videos, and voice tapes.
  • Schedule one-to-one get-togethers as much as possible.

Dr. Arthur Kornhaber


  • Arthur Kornhaber M.D. is a grandfather, clinician, researcher, medical writer, and the Founder and President of the Foundation for Grandparenting. A leading authority on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, he directs, since 1970, the longest ongoing grandparenting research and information project and is the author of several internationally recognized books and numerous articles on the topic. Dr. Kornhaber writes articles, speaks widely, and appears regularly in the media, including Network morning shows (NBC, CBS etc.), to raise grandparent consciousness and to educate people about grandparent-related issues.