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Information for grandparents

Photo: Having a deaf grandchild will mean there are new things to learn.

When you first find out that your grandchild is deaf you may find it a shock or be upset. There is no right or wrong way to feel. There are lots of different sources of support available to help you learn more about deafness and what this means for your grandchild.

Finding information and support

Support can come from:

  • Your family and friends
  • Your local community (e.g. a local deaf club)
  • Services for deaf children (e.g. audiology, speech and language therapists)
  • Voluntary organisations like us.

The following hints and tips were given to us by grandparents, explaining what they found helpful:

  • Find out about deafness for yourself, there are lots of sources of information available. Your son or daughter may have been given information that you can look at too, and although this may be aimed at parents, it can still be useful.
  • Encourage your son or daughter to talk to you. Find out when your grandchild has an appointment (for example, a visit to the audiology clinic) and see if you can go with them. If you can’t go, ask them how it went.
  • Find out if there are any groups in your area for families of deaf children. There may also be other families or grandparents who live near to you and have a deaf child or grandchild. It’s good to be able to meet and talk with other families and share your experiences.
  • Listening to your son or daughter and also asking questions shows that you are interested. Try and make sure that you ask questions at appropriate times and that your questions are sensitive and help you understand your grandchild’s deafness.
A deaf child in your family

Having a deaf child in your family probably means that there are new things for you to learn, and do, to support your grandchild. Understanding your grandchild’s needs and developing good communication within your family are important for your grandchild’s development. Here are some tips from other grandparents about what they have done:

  • Understand how to communicate with your grandchild. Your son or daughter will be able to show you how you can do this and, as your grandchild gets older, they will be able to tell you what communication works best for them.
  • Learn about your grandchild’s hearing aids or cochlear implants. Find out how to look after them and do the practical things such as changing batteries.
  • Think about how to make your home more suitable for your grandchild. You could do things such as having subtitles or signing on television programmes.
  • Have fun. Play games, do activities and do general household jobs (such as shopping) together.
Supporting your family

Here are some hints and tips from parents of deaf children about what you, as grandma or grandad, can do to help:

  • Offer practical help. Parents sometimes have contact with many different professionals and go to a lot of different appointments. Offer to help with phone calls, letters and going to appointments.
  • Babysitting and looking after your grandchild will give you time with them, as well as giving parents some time to themselves.
  • When it comes to supporting and caring for a child, it’s important to be consistent. So take the lead from your son or daughter, even if you don’t have the same ideas about ‘parenting’ your grandchild.
  • Develop your own support networks of people you can talk to and organisations you can contact.
  • Make time for your other grandchildren, as they need quality time with you too.
  • Try not to be overprotective - your grandchild needs to develop independence and confidence.
  • Enjoy your grandchild - you will have a special and unique relationship with them.
Tips from other grandparents
  • Make sure all your grandchildren mix together.
  • Try and get all the information, including any troubling news that your children do not want to give you.
  • Find out what methods of communication will be best and, where necessary, find out more information. For example, if sign language is the preferred method, find out where sign language classes take place.
  • Make sure that you have eye contact with your grandchild before speaking.
  • Be aware of any background noise which may distract them and interfere with their listening.
  • Have fun and enjoy activities with them. Children will always be children, whether they are hearing or deaf.
  • Where possible, by discussing and talking with friends, family and other people, ensure that they get an accurate perception of deafness. We saw this as indirect support to our family.

For further information and guidance on what to expect and be aware of in the early stages of diagnosis, you can refer to our booklet My Baby Has a Hearing Loss