First-time grandma Donna Mora recently enrolled in a class. Not at the local community college, but at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.
"The grandparenting class just sounded like a fun thing to do!" says 56-year-old Mora. "I knew certain things had changed since I had my own children — such as doctors saying babies shouldn't be sleeping on their tummies anymore."
But at her first class, before revealing the latest infant-feeding techniques, Mora's instructor offered a tip for maintaining good relations with the new parents. "We were told to back off and not offer uninvited advice," says Mora.
She realized how nice it was "to be warned" days later when a note arrived from her daughter-in-law in San Diego. In it, she asked that the grandparents-to-be respect the new family's need to bond alone before being inundated with visitors.
"I was glad to be prepared for that letter," says Mora. "My daughter-in-law told us we would be the first to see the new baby. She knew that as a first-time grandmother I might want to rush in. I thought, 'Good for her, setting the boundaries.'"
Grandparenting classes do cover more than the new role expecting grandparents are stepping into. Class outlines typically include all that's changed in child safety and childcare practices. Some even include lessons in infant CPR.
"Tips on caring for infants may be delivered best by a health professional or educator," says Nancy Sanchez, who spearheaded Lucile Packard's class. A parent's request for a certain method of caretaking could result in confrontation if a grandparent expresses a preference for a different tactic.
That may explain why Sanchez has seen so many parents enroll new grandparents in her class. They want the grandparents to hear about — and put to use — the same up-to-the-minute childcare tips they're being exposed to in parenting classes. With an increasing number of moms and dads working outside the home, it's grandparents many of them will turn to as everyday caregivers.
Preparing for a New Role
Still, helping expecting grandparents identify their niche tends to be a main focus, says Sanchez. "Often, their roles will shift and it's confusing. At times, they'll have the role of parents. Then they'll transition back to hands-off mode as they hand the child back to the parents."
Worth the Investment?
Mora did see her grandbaby, Sadie, immediately after she was born. And Mora says she's tried hard to respect her son and daughter-in-law's roles as new parents. "I definitely find myself biting my tongue at times! But I really try to wait until I'm asked before sharing my experience."
Would she recommend the class? "Yes! I'd definitely suggest it for first-timers — even experienced grandparents who've never been through such training." Based on what she learned, here's her advice: "Be available," she says, adding with a grin, "and keep your mouth shut!"
A Sampling of Grandparenting Classes Nationwide:
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.