When Grandparents Have Different Parenting Practices Than You Do

November 22nd, 2013

by Janice Frey-Angel, CEO,
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

This column originally appeared on What To Expect’s Word of Mom blog November 14, 2013.

Before I came to work in maternal-child health, my daughter announced that she was expecting our first grandchild. Needless to say, my husband and I were thrilled.

My son-in-law is an infectious disease pediatrician. When he told us we needed a Tdap shot for pertussis (whooping cough) protection before our grandchild’s arrival, we were very surprised. We knew nothing of “cocooning” and had not heard of relatives getting a vaccination before birth! We both assumed this was another example of the generation gap between new approaches to parenting and the way we brought up our kids decades earlier (a “we did it differently, and they didn’t die” approach).

Fast forward. My daughter informed us we wouldn’t be able to see our new grandchild unless we got the pertussis vaccine. Ultimately, we did the research on protective benefits for the baby and got our shots. And we learned a few things along the way.

The pertussis shot wasn’t the only instance in which my daughter and I encountered the generation gap. While much that I experienced as a new mother remains the same, much has changed in terms of knowledge, advice, and “best practices,” affecting everything from prenatal care to childbirth preparation to child passenger safety.

As my daughter told me about all the classes she was going to while pregnant, I may have rolled my eyes quietly at the list, while acknowledging that attending classes was a good way to meet other pregnant women/couples for support. When she told me about attending a breastfeeding class, I wondered how helpful such a thing might be, and whether nursing wasn’t a case of “on the job training” when the time arrived.

But in fact, many changes which have occurred since my own early mothering days have enormous benefits for moms and babies. For example, I later learned about the important information my daughter received, on topics like how long she could safely store milk in the refrigerator versus the freezer, and other issues that were foreign to me. After all, we didn’t have breast pumps when she was born! I came to realize how many more options my daughter has as a new mother than I had. The increase in information for pregnant women today can be overwhelming, but how fortunate we are to have the science and experience to better support the health and safety of mothers and their infants.

As a maternal-child health professional today, my personal experience gives me empathy for those who resist new practices.  It also underlines how important health education is, and how important it is to make current science accessible to those who need it most. Parents, grandparents, extended families, and care providers depend on accurate, user-friendly, culturally relevant information to keep kids healthy and safe.

Today, I couldn’t be more committed to sharing evidence-based messages about immunization, breastfeeding, and many other key health issues. In my leadership role with the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) I’m proud to share tools like text4baby, a free and easy-to-use resource meeting the need for current, accessible health information. Pregnant women and new moms can sign up directly on their mobile phone by texting “BABY” (“BEBE” for Spanish) to 511411.

Good luck in talking to your parents. I know it’s not easy to take on this new part of your relationship with your parents as you become a parent yourself, but in the end you will get the support you need. Know that the shared love of the new baby will bring you together for a stronger, healthier family.

Janice Frey-Angel is a clinical social worker with a background in mental health, family therapy, domestic violence, crisis intervention, group work, disabilities and maternal-child health.  Ms. Frey-Angel has led several non-profit organizations, ranging from social services, rehabilitation services, work force development and advocacy.  She has led medium and large multi-disciplinary organizations that were “turn-around” situations and developed new programs and grew revenue and scope at each.  In addition, she has served as board chair on a number of state-wide membership organizations and received numerous awards recognizing her leadership, including Maryland Top 100 Women, CEO You Want to Know, and Women Who Mean Business.  She is the proud grandmother of a 17th month old.

2 Responses to “When Grandparents Have Different Parenting Practices Than You Do

  1. Catriona Bentley says:

    Hello Janice,
    This was very interesting. Our daughter-in-law asked that we have a Tdap shot. We told her that ours was done just under six years ago (I am 58 and my husband is 64). She said that was OK then later told us we had to have another before we saw our new grandson (born January 2nd). I checked with several doctors at Group Health and they told me that only one is needed as an adult and we should be well covered since ours was not long ago. They only will do it once. The cost outside of Group Health is $40.00 each. I have no problem with the money but don’t want to have another booster that I may not need. I had a reaction the first time to the vaccine. My husband did not. I had whooping cough as a child and do know that immunity may have worn off. It appears we will not be allowed to see our grandchild unless we have this. What do you think? Thanks so much.

  2. Twila says:

    Catriona –

    What is the cost to you of getting the shot? A minor irritation and $40?
    What is the cost to you of not getting the shot? Not being able to see your grandchild?

    I don’t understand why this is even a question.

    Maybe your children are wrong, and you’ll undergo some minor irritation for no reason. Or maybe YOU are wrong, and you’ll put your grandchild at risk of fatal infection for no reason. Which seems worse?

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