Gen-X Grandparents? You’re Not Alone.

Dear Mr. Dad: My 24-year old son and his wife are expecting their first baby in a few weeks. I’m really happy for him and I’m looking forward to meeting my new granddaughter. The problem is that I’m not even 50 yet and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m going to be a grandfather. I take good care of myself, look pretty good for my age, and just don’t feel like a grandparent. What can I do?

A: This is definitely not your grandparents’ grandparenthood, with its images of grey hair, round-the-world cruises, and senior citizen discounts. Unfortunately, no matter how young you feel, how much you work out, how great you look, or how much of your hair you have left, there’s still one thing that will make you—and everyone around you—painfully aware that you’re getting older: that adorable tot running up to meet you at the front door screaming, “Hi, Grandpa!”

Becoming a grandparent at a young age can be a real shock to the ego—something a lot of us would prefer to keep safely in the future. But, if it makes you feel any better, you’re far from alone. According to AARP (which used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons—and which you can’t join until you’re 50 anyway), the average age of first-time grandparents is about 47, which almost no one considers “old.” A recent study of GenXers (those born between 1964 and 1980) by MetLife found that only 27 percent would consider themselves “old” before age 60. 35 percent said “old” is 60-69, and 25 percent said they wouldn’t be “old” ‘til after age 70.

No matter how much you prepare yourself, once that first grandchild shows up, your life will change in some pretty serious ways. Here are some steps you can take to make the transition a little less jarring:
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My son’s wife is pregnant and I’m a little worried about becoming a grandfather. How will my new role change my life? How is being a grandfather different from being a father?

More than 90 percent of parents over sixty-five have grandchildren, and about half of those have at least one adult grandchild. What this means is that with life expectancies getting longer all the time, you’re going to be a grandfather for a long-maybe a very long-time. Most grandfathers love being able to add the title of "grandpa" to their list of identities. Here are some of the reasons why:
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Teaching Grandpa Some New Tricks

Dear Mr. Dad: My parents are divorced and my dad has been living in another state. He is now moving back home because he says he wants to develop a relationship with his grandchild (my son), who is four. Unfortunately, my father has anger management issues–he’s never been violent, but he does have verbal outbursts. He can be fine, but then something sets him off and he starts being verbally abusive. He says he can control himself now, but my husband and I are afraid to leave our son with him. On the other hand, I want my child to get to know his grandfather. What can we do?

A: You’re absolutely right to be concerned about entrusting your child to someone who has a history of abusive behavior—violent or otherwise—regardless of whether he’s a relative or not.

Your dad says he can control his outbursts. But how do you know? Has he been in anger management or been getting some other type of therapy, counseling, or professional help? I’m not saying people can’t change—of course they can. But it’s pretty unlikely that a lifelong habit would suddenly disappear all by itself. It’s certainly possible that your father has learned to keep his anger under wraps, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way. As you say, he can be fine one moment, then something (or someone) will spark his anger. You certainly don’t want that someone to be your four-year-old.
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Being an Involved Grandfather

Dear Mr. Dad: When my kids were young I worked a lot and wasn’t around as much as I wanted to be. But now that I’m retired and a grandfather, how can I make up for it and build strong relationships with my grandkids?

A: There’s no way to make up for lost time, but there are some excellent ways to be an active, involved part of your grandchildren’s life.

  • Stay connected. Call, write, email, text, Skype, or twitter. There are tons of ways to keep in touch.

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