There are many common questions among new grandparents: How do I stay involved -- but not too involved -- in my grandchildren's lives? How do I make sure not to step on my kids' toes on parenting issues? How can I make sure my grandkids love me?
Unfortunately, grandparenting, like parenting, doesn't come with a "how-to" manual. But here's the secret: For the most part, grandparents will adopt their own style of grandparenting -- depending on family dynamics and tradition.
Some grandparents are hyper-involved, others barely at all -- whether by choice or circumstance.
Researchers have identified various styles of grandparenting, including the nurturer, the mentor, the role model, the wizard, the playmate and the hero.
Most grandparents, at some point, manage to play all of those roles, and others.
But it can be difficult for a grandparent to have an active role in a grandchild's life and still respect the boundaries and traditions that the child's parents have put into place.
Susan Bates of Brunswick is an example of a grandmother who has achieved that balance.
Bates, the director of health promotion, wellness and community outreach at Southeast Georgia Health System, is known simply as "GoGo" to her two grandsons, Couper Bates, 5, and Cannon Bates, 19 months.
The boys, who live with their parents in Woodbine, Ga., have a very close relationship with Bates, who was in the hospital room when each was born. Couper has an especially strong tie to Bates, because after he was born, the young family lived with her for two years, which gave them the chance to be together every day. "They're close enough for frequent visits, but far enough away that I can't just drop in anytime I want," Bates said, explaining that because of a little planning, the family makes time to get together for visits each week. She is usually available for baby-sitting, and always available as a sounding board for her son, Jason, and his wife, Amy. Bates says one way to maintain a good familial relationship is to pay attention to the parents' parenting style, including their methods of discipline. That is a concept echoed by Lois Henry, who with her daughter, Meghan Davis, owns Color Me Happy, a pottery studio in downtown Brunswick, Ga. Henry sees her grandchildren, Reilly-Kate Davis, 4, and Sam Davis, 2, every day because they accompany their mother to work when they are not in school. The women's business partnership is an equal partnership and everything is decided together. Inter-family relationships are a whole other story.
"Meghan gets to decide boundaries," Henry said, explaining that there is a fine line for a grandparent that should not be overstepped. "She has asked opinions, and I am honored that she almost always thinks that I have good ones." Henry said she respects Davis' choices in such matters as appropriate snacks, how long the children may be at a computer and other parameters. Getting to see her grandchildren every day is fun, and Henry helps out a lot, sometimes picking up the children from school and occasionally administering first-aid and a much-wanted hug. "It's not always perfect; there are 2- and 4-year-old meltdowns, but there are walks to the park or to the library and holding their little hands," Henry said. Joan Davis of St. Simons Island, Ga. also has a close relationship with her granddaughter, Sophia, who lived with her mother, and the Davises, for 18 months while her father was on active military duty. The Davises have two rooms in their home specifically for their grandchildren -- the two granddaughters share a room, while their grandson has his own. Davis said that becoming less involved with Sophia has been difficult, but had to be done once her father returned home. "It was very difficult to stop being so involved when he returned, but I did it -- some," Davis said. "Sophia spends the night with us at least once a week."