October 31, 2019
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“These parents need to feel supported and one should never assume that they know what is most helpful.”
Your kids are now having kids, but that doesn’t mean everything you learned 30 years ago still applies.
Debby Poitevent, a first time grandparent living in the Uptown neighborhood, was more thrilled than apprehensive about the birth of her granddaughter in early October. Yet when her daughter suggested that she attend a grandparenting course at Ochsner Baptist in New Orleans to stay current on new trends in child rearing, Poitevent thought it was a great idea.
“People my age, soon to be grandparents, who say ‘I know all that’ — I can’t imagine what they already know because it was what I knew from almost 40 years ago and it’s so changed,” she says.
The “Grandparents” class is free and offered monthly onsite at Ochsner Baptist. Jenifer Ducoing, a nurse and instructor at the medical center, designed the class out of a need to update patients on the latest in hospital protocols and child raising techniques. She overheard a conversation involving her sister telling her niece what would happen when she delivered her baby. She was taken aback by the answer so she quickly interjected.
“Grandparents need to know how things have changed so we’re giving consistent information and a message to our patients,” Ducoing says.
In addition to talking about changing practices with labor and delivery, Ducoing also covers the importance of skin-to-skin with newborns and breastfeeding, best sleep practices for baby, and new car seat laws.
“If I teach grandparents they are more understanding of how it works and why it’s a good thing,” she says. “They can be there to help and assist when they understand how it works and why things occur as they do.”
Poitevent has learned about her role as a grandparent and the importance of being supportive without interfering. She says that Ducoing reminds them in the class that this is their grandchild and not their own child and to respect the parenting approach that their daughter or son has chosen to use.
“The program that they have for pregnant families is pretty sophisticated and comprehensive. I was really impressed,” Poitevent says.
The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans offers a one hour “Grandparenting 101” class. Lisa Phillips, M.S.W., L.M.S.W., and a writer of Nola Family’s “Parenting Corner” column, helps to teach the class and covers general topics such as breastfeeding and calming techniques, but also delves into how life has changed for this generation of parents. She discusses the growing expense of childcare, the role of technology (both bad and good), as well as less authoritarian discipline practices.
“I love doing this grand parenting class. Everyone looks so happy,” Phillips says. She adds that there is always a lot of enthusiasm within the group because most are first time grandparents.
Phillips asks grandparents to think back to when they were new parents. These parents need to feel supported and one should never assume that they know what is most helpful. For instance, one mom or dad might need the baby held while they shower, but another might want to feed the baby while someone folds the laundry.
“It’s people telling you what a good job you are doing, empathizing with how hard it is, and asking what would be the most helpful thing that they can do for you,” Phillips says.
While Poitevent and some of her grandparent-friends are concerned about how things have changed since they were raising their children, she feels that her daughter has adapted well to this new norm.
“I am just so excited to see this little being. It’s our first grandchild. This is a real thrill,” she says.
Sarah Herndon is a freelance writer, mom, and frequent contributor to Nola Family.