Love and laugh with your grandchildren
I have been thinking about grandparents lately. As I set my goals for the New Year, I decided I wanted to become more like my Grandma Lil.
My grandparents were huge influences in my life. My grandma was one of my best friends. She taught me a lot about love and laughter. I always knew she loved me. It didn’t matter what I did or did not do — she loved me fiercely! She also taught me about laughter. We spent many hours giggling over silly things — mostly we laughed at ourselves.
Grandparents do not have to worry about the daily chores of raising children. Grandparents are free to develop more creative relationships with their grandchildren by sharing activities and interests with them.
Recent studies of people aged 65 or older reveal that 75 percent have living grandchildren. Studies have also shown that the grandparent-grandchild interaction is very enjoyable and that three-fourths of all grandparents have weekly contact with their grandchildren.
Most grandparents find great satisfaction in being actively involved with their grandchildren. Most would agree with the saying, “If I had known grandchildren would be this fun, I would have had them first.”
My 17-year-old son recently had dinner with his grandfather. My dad told him that he would take him hunting next year. I was amazed at the impact this had on my son. He is already anticipating this adventure with his grandfather.
I know it will be equally enjoyable for both of them. They have a lot to offer each other! My dad never, ever forgets a grandchild’s birthday. This has always meant a great deal to them and continues to be meaningful as they have gotten older. Even after the grandchildren have grown and left home, he has continued to support their adventures and college efforts in various ways.
In order to stay connected, it is important for both grandparents and grandchildren to understand they come from different generations — as far as technology is concerned. My children are not going to be able to share their daily activities with grandpa if they text or Facebook him (and I am sure he does not know what LOL means)! Some grandparents are very high-tech and can use webcams, texting and e-mail as a great way to stay connected. Find a way to communicate — and stay connected — that works for everyone.
From the article, “Being Grand Grandparents,” Bernice McCowin states, “With longer life expectancies, many adults today spend more years being grandparents than ever before. Grandchildren often enjoy a special relationship with their grandparents and look to them for stability, especially in a changing world. Whether grandparents live close or far away, there are many ways they can build a caring and loving relationship with grandchildren.”
• Be an anchor in a world of shifting values.
• Nurture a sense of trust, responsibility and dependability.
• Provide emotional support.
• Give grandchildren an appreciation of the past and a sense of history.
• Maintain a close relationship even when older children begin seeking independence.
• Provide stability and love during difficult times.
Grandparents who live nearby can also:
• Give grandchildren the gift of time, since they are often less involved in household and career pressures.
• Help grandchildren succeed in school by asking questions or helping with homework.
• Encourage reading by keeping good books, magazines and reference materials on hand when grandchildren visit.
• Teach grandchildren sports, skills or hobbies.
• Praise them often and sincerely without comparing them to others.
• Impart a love of music and drama, and help grandchildren savor life through the arts.
Grandparents who live far away can:
• Maintain correspondence through letters, postcards, holiday greeting cards or e-mail.
• Take photographs of important events and send them to the grandchildren.
• Create a newsletter especially for grandchildren.
• Encourage reading by sending books or stories. For younger children, record an audiocassette by reading the story.
• Share a recipe for something they will enjoy eating or preparing.
• Write a story about ancestors they have never met and send it to them.
Grandparents have many strengths and experiences they can call upon to influence the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents have the opportunity to become great friends with their grandchildren. Grandparents should love their grandchildren fiercely! May all grandparents and grandchildren love and laugh together often.
Christina Hawkey is a professor of family studies at Arizona Western College. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.