Expert Articles


Author: Kwok Wing Man
Registered Social Worker at Tsung Tsing Mission of Hong Kong Joyful Place

Parents of infants and young children are generally dual-income households, and they rely on grandparents and other caregivers to take turns providing care. Recognizing the importance of caregiver stability and timely responsiveness in fostering a sense of security and building parent-child attachment in children aged 0-3, this column aims to discuss with parents how to achieve “two generations united in parenting to assist healthy child development.”

The Importance of Two Generations United in Parenting

In today’s society, infants and young children not only receive care and love from their parents but also from grandparents, other relatives, and caregivers. Infants and young children aged 0–3 need consistent and stable care from their caregivers to establish a sense of security. Consistent and stable care includes maintaining consistent routines and dietary arrangements and providing prompt assistance, responses, hugs, and comfort whenever the child needs it. If all caregivers have consistent directions and goals for the care and upbringing of infants and young children, they can grow happily in an atmosphere of love.

However, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are independent individuals. How can they build trust and respond to children with consistency and love during the caregiving process?

Keys to Achieving Two Generations United in Parenting

Parents need to understand that consistent parenting does not mean “using the same parenting methods.” Otherwise, it would be like a factory assembly line operation, lacking a deep understanding of the child’s current needs and the emotional connection with the child. To achieve inter-generational co-parenting, both generations need an open attitude of communication, effective collaboration, and mutual respect to complement each other’s shortcomings and share responsibilities in the parenting process.

Now let me give an example of when parents have to leave home and entrust their child to their grandparents:

Preparation by Parents

Open Communication

Openly express expectations for the care and upbringing of the child to the grandparents, including feeding and sleep arrangements (e.g., whether to allow the child to use electronic devices, pacifiers, and toilet training methods).

Empathetic Listening

Listen with respect and acceptance, not just going through the motions. Truly understand the opinions and limitations expressed by the other party, taking into account different backgrounds, roles, experiences, and physical conditions, and seek consensus.

Trust in the grandparents’ caregiving abilities

Every parent understands that there is no “manual” for raising children, and there is no absolute way of doing things. Therefore, parents need to trust the judgment and handling of the caregivers at that moment. Even if different approaches are taken, it is important to communicate honestly afterward, express concerns, and share thoughts, aiming to reach a consensus.

Trust in the child’s adaptability

Infants and young children are natural learners with remarkable adaptability beyond our imagination. Interacting with different caregivers broadens their life experiences and contributes to their growth and development. From birth, infants and young children are constantly learning to adapt to their environment, including feeding, controlling their bodily functions, expressing their needs to others, and building trust with caregivers. This stage is often the fastest and most significant learning journey of their lives.

Preparation by Grandparents and Other Caregivers:

Balancing Traditional Values and Modern Development

The social atmosphere, parenting styles, and material supplies of the past and present are drastically different. Grandparents can share their own experiences and consider preserving good traditions while also trying to understand the new caregiving models and expectations of the new generation. Learning and progressing with the times will help complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Recognizing One’s Own and the Child’s Needs

While caring for infants and young children, we need to understand their genuine needs. For example, when entering or leaving an air-conditioned place, we tend to put a jacket on the child, and when the child falls, we immediately pick them up and comfort them. Such overprotective care may deprive the child of opportunities for self-growth. Grandparents should try to be aware of whether the care being provided is for “themselves” or for the “child’s” genuine needs to avoid falling into the caregiving trap of “feeling cold because Grandma thinks you’re cold!”

Respecting and Accepting Different Parenting Styles Across Generations

Avoid speaking negatively about parents in front of the child, as it can create unnecessary psychological pressure and strain the relationship between parents and grandparents.

Seeking Consensus on Parenting Direction Together

If parents, grandparents, other caregivers, or even other relatives can establish effective communication methods and exchange observations and understanding about the child with an open attitude, they can jointly develop and implement parenting guidelines and action plans. By leveraging each person’s strengths and complementing each other’s weaknesses, they can create a stable, supportive, and loving environment for the child and meet their developmental needs.

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Two Generations United