Ocean-terminating glaciers in Arctic regions have undergone rapid dynamic changes in recent years, which have been related to a dramatic increase in calving rates. Iceberg calving is a dynamical process strongly influenced by the geometry at the terminus of tidewater glaciers. We investigate the effect of varying water level, calving front slope and basal sliding on the state of stress and flow regime for an idealized grounded ocean-terminating glacier and scale these results with ice thickness and velocity. Results show that water depth and calving front slope strongly affect the stress state while the effect from spatially uniform variations in basal sliding is much smaller. An increased relative water level or a reclining calving front slope strongly decrease the stresses and velocities in the vicinity of the terminus and hence have a stabilizing effect on the calving front. We find that surface stress magnitude and distribution for simple geometries are determined solely by the water depth relative to ice thickness. Based on this scaled relationship for the stress peak at the surface, and assuming a critical stress for damage initiation, we propose a simple and new parametrization for calving rates for grounded tidewater glaciers that is calibrated with observations.