Waiting to Be a Grandparent? How to Support Your Adult Child

Avoid Hurting Your Relationship by Following these Dos and Don'ts

Adult children with their parents waiting to have grandkids
Remember that your adult children are adults now. They need their privacy and autonomy, but they also still very much want your support. Image Source / Getty Images

Infertility isn't only hard on a couple struggling to conceive, but also on their parents. If you've imagined your future as grandparents, waiting for your adult children to have kids -- or watching them struggle to conceive -- can be frustrating and painful.

With that said, what the fertility challenged need most from you is your support. Here's what not to do, and what to do, if you want to support us and maintain a positive relationship.

Don’t Ask Us “When Will You Give Us Some Grandchildren?”

Or variations on this question, like, “When are you going to start having kids?” Or “Isn’t it about time you start your family?” Or “When’s the next grandchild coming?”

First of all, if we’re not ready to have children, pressuring us isn’t going to make us ready faster. Only we can decide when the right time to have children is.

Second, we may be trying to have children already.

Andi W. shares this story: “My family doesn't know we are trying to get pregnant…. I am constantly being asked ‘when are you going to have kids’ by mainly the women in my family (mom, mother-in-law, aunts, sister-in-law). I don't know how to respond to this. I want to scream, ‘We're trying and it's been a struggle!’ We just adopted a new kitten, and when I told my mom about it, her response was, ‘Well, I guess all I get are feline grandchildren.’ It was hard to hold back tears on that one.”

What to do instead:

Just don’t ask. We’ll bring up the topic when we’re ready.

Don’t Pressure Us.

Pressure can include questioning when we’re going to have kids, like I mentioned above. But pressure can also mean pressing us to see the doctor sooner or more frequently. It can mean pressing us on whether we tried this or that method, or pushing articles on boosting fertility on us.

We know you want a grandchild.

We want a child just as much -- if not more so -- than you want a grandchild.

We can’t make this happen faster, and if we knew a way, we’d be taking it.

What to do instead:

When you're feeling impatient for us to conceive, vent to your friends and peers. 

Don’t Ask If We’re Pregnant.

Chances are that when we do get pregnant, we will tell you. So asking just reminds us that we’re not pregnant yet.

Sandra A. puts it best: “Our in-laws just ask ‘How is the baby making going? Any news?’ Well, if I had happy news, I would share. I can't call up and say, ‘Hey, guess who isn't pregnant!’”

It’s also possible that we may not tell you when we get pregnant right away.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Maybe we’re afraid to jinx ourselves. Maybe we are afraid of losing the pregnancy and don’t want to announce it until we see a heartbeat, or make it past some other meaningful milestone.

Just know this: when we’re ready to tell the world, you will be the first to know.

What to do instead:

Stick with open ended questions, like “How are you?” And mean them! No winks to imply what you’re really asking is whether we’re pregnant!

Don’t Try to Diagnose Our Problem or “Cure” It.

If we have confided in you that we’re struggling to get pregnant, don’t make us regret sharing by bombarding us with advice and judgments.

Don’t question every alcoholic drink we may enjoy (a glass of wine now and then really is okay).

Don’t try to point the blame for our fertility struggles on something in our lifestyle, or shame us for “waiting too long” to have children.

Don’t tell us that we’ll conceive if we “just stop trying” or if we would “just be less stressed out.”

Absolutely do not bring up our love life. Asking “Are you sure your doing it right?!” isn’t funny. (And has nothing to do with infertility.)

Unless we specifically ask for your advice, know that we are putting our trust in our doctors, and doing our own research into what our options are.

What to do instead:

This advice from Bridget M. seems perfect: “I think the best advice is just to ask how they are doing and let them just talk and cry and do whatever they need to get… Be the ear and the shoulder - not the adviser.”

Doing research on infertility basics and fertility treatments can help you understand our situation better, and help you understand us when we're talking about testing and treatment.

But try to see this research as being for yourself. Don't read up on infertility so you can give us advice. Read up so you can support us better.

Don’t Tell Us You Can “Just Tell” We’re Pregnant.

If we tell you we have the stomach flu, please don’t insist that we must be pregnant.

If we look particularly radiant, don’t tell us you can tell we’re pregnant from our “glow.”

We know you’re just trying to be supportive. Maybe you think your pregnancy predictions give us hope. Maybe you’re trying to help us be more optimistic.

Instead, you’re reminding us that we’re not pregnant.

When we’re sick, and you insist we’re really pregnant and just not telling you, you’re saying we’re lying – and that makes us feel bad.

And if we really are pregnant, but just aren’t ready to tell you, you’re putting us into an uncomfortable situation.

What to do instead:

If we’re sick, ask how you can help, or just offer your sympathies.

If you think we’re glowing, just tell us you think we look great – without the pregnant prediction!

More on supporting a family member or friend with infertility: