Welcoming a grandchild into the world can often mean major changes in your priorities, especially if it’s your first one. From college savings to babysitting—who knew there were so many things to think about when getting ready for your family’s newest member? Here are some tips to prepare for the arrival of a new grandchild.
Make communication a priority
In all the excitement about your new grandchild, it can be easy to forget one of your most important relationships: your bond with the child’s parents. Even if you have a strong, healthy relationship, conflicts over different parenting styles, shared holidays, or the sheer exhaustion of having a newborn can easily start to cause tension.
Keeping the lines of communication open means listening to what your grandchild’s parents are saying, even—especially—when it’s not something you wanted to hear. It might sting if you find that the parents need you to put the unannounced visits on hold for now or stop giving feedback on their parenting, but try to see it as an opportunity to build trust. It’s okay to say what you need to say, too, but communicating in a kind, empathetic way will lay the groundwork for an honest dialogue.
Support your grandchild’s parent(s)
Your new grandchild’s parents need your help now more than ever. Every new parent has different preferences about how much and what kind of help they need, so it’s best to ask instead of jumping in right away.
For example, you might find that they have household chores handled, but would love you to run your other grandkid to school or help with meals. Or you might learn that your grandchild’s parents need emotional support far more than errands or financial assistance. Their needs will change with the child’s age, so it’s important to check in with them frequently as your grandchild grows up.
Save for college other expenses
It’s never too early to start saving for your grandchild’s future, especially with the rising cost of higher education. Many grandparents opt to open a college fund for their grandchild, such as a 529 college savings plan.
Whatever you choose, you’ll probably want to communicate about these decisions with your grandchild’s parents. They may have their own savings plan that you’ll need to take into consideration, or have tax information that could affect your decision-making process.
Consider your legacy
Updating your estate planning to include a new grandchild may require significant thought, especially if it’s your first. You have many choices in how to include your grandchild in your legacy. Some grandparents gift funds to their grandchildren during their lifetime, while others decide to wait until they reach a certain age or leave a bequest for after they pass away.
Another option to provide your grandchild with more financial security is your life insurance policy. Permanent policies like whole life insurance or universal life insurance, with lifelong coverage, lend themselves particularly well to leaving a legacy, and adding a beneficiary is usually a simple process. You may want to name a custodian: a person responsible for managing the funds until your grandchild reaches the age of majority should you pass away before then. This can be any adult and doesn’t have to be the grandchild’s parent if you feel someone else would be a better fit for this role.
While the arrival of a new grandchild might be stressful, it’s also a time to make memories and deepen your connections with your family. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to plan ahead. With enough preparation for the financial and emotional considerations of the first years of your grandchild’s life, you’ll be well prepared to relax and enjoy your time with your grandchild without undue stress.