Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Things Every Grandparent Should Know

In our current culture, grandparents can be divided easily into three groups.   Those who are raising their grandchildren, those who live far away, and those who are close by.  About 1 in 10 children are being raised in a grandparent-headed household (Pew Research, 2014). This is for the other 90%.  Whether you are a Long Distance "Holiday Grannie" or one who lives close by, this is what your son or daughter won't tell you.

1 - They want to see you more and we want them to see you more.  They want you to be a bigger part of their children's lives. Yes, we are busy.  Yes, we know you are too.  So keep it simple.  Kids can be overwhelming especially in large families, so maybe just take one grandchild at a time, or tag along with their activities on occasion.  Get to know them.   Make them feel special.  Take them out for an ice-cream or to a movie or to the library.  Take them goofy-golfing.   Take them to piano lessons and stay to listen to their practice.  Teach them how to use a hammer or bait a hook.  Take them to a baseball game and teach them how to score it.  Bring them home with you to plant flowers in your garden.  Even a trip to the grocery store can be fun when you have a grandparent's attention.  If you are a long-distance grannie, then learn to video chat.  Schedule time to read them a book one night a week face-to-face on the computer.

2 - Let them get to know YOU.  We know you have a busy life.  We aren't asking for you to retire, give up your hobbies, and become a granny-nanny. Your life experiences are part of what defines who you are - so share your experiences.
 I remember going to my grandparents square-dancing classes when I would visit them in the summer.  I loved my grandmother's fancy dresses.  We would sit and watch them dance, then go for ice-cream after wards.  I would pick out all the bubblegum from the ice-cream and stack it on the napkin.  It was one of my fondest memories of our visits.

3- You need these grandchildren.  They will keep you young.  Recent research published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family found that when you controlled for initial cognitive levels, grand-parenting has a cognitive benefit for the grandparents.  Put another way - spending time with your grandkids improves the way your brain works (Arpino and Bordone, 2014). 

4 - The babies are cute, but the older kids are the ones that really need your attention.  It is wonderful to take the little one for a walk in her stroller, but she won't remember it.  Not even tomorrow.  If you give a 10 year-old that same amount of time and attention, he will remember it years from now.

5- Visit now and you will have visitors later.  Nursing homes are full of older folks who have family that don't visit.  I expect that much of that is because when those independent adults were 'free' of the responsibilities of parenthood, they were uninvolved in the lives of their grandkids.   If you want your cute grandkids to bring their beautiful children to visit YOU in another 20 years, and bring their cute baby by every Sunday afternoon for dinner, you had better build a relationship with those grandkids now.   It is very hard for a 20 something with little kids to regularly take time out of their lives to visit a virtual stranger… and that is what you will be to them if you don't build a relationship with them while they are young.  Teen years are hard to build a relationship, but if you have a foundation from the first 10 years, then you can sustain it in the teen years.  As a young adult, your grandchildren will appreciate your perspective and your wisdom, but not to the same degree if you aren't close already.

Want to read more from the experts in this field? Click here.

What are your fondest memories of your grandparents?

What do you to as a mother to facilitate your parent's or in-law's relationships with your children?

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