Many who are at mid-career or the halftime of life find themselves at the stage of life where kids or grown and starting their own families and are now embracing the role of a grandparent. The role of a parent has now expanded into a grandparent. Since most of us limped along in our parenting skills, wondering how our kids would survive a world that looked different than when we grew up, we wonder how our kids will ever survive the same process with a world that looks even more different and crazy.
Greg and I have adult kids and our roles have morphed as we watch our son’s journeys and pray for them daily. We realize there are those who have much more interaction and impact with their adult children, but this has become our role, mindful of daughter-in laws and their households. However, embracing the role of a grandparent is one we are fully committed to in the times we interact with our granddaughters. This article scratches the surface of possibilities, as we still feel like newbies in this process, but the principles are timeless and can be immediately applied and expanded. I hope they help stimulate your imagination!
One: Foster Meaningful Connections
A meaningful connection with a grandchild ideally starts with a meaningful connection with their parent. Keeping the communication lines open with acceptance and love may be difficult in some situations with an adult child. This is where a healthy mindset with flexibility, listening and forgiveness is extremely valuable.
Depending on the relationship, asking open-ended questions to your grown children like, “What kind of character qualities are you looking to develop in your kids?” Then listen…don’t correct! After asking the first question a good next step is to ask, “Why does that matter?” The answer to those questions helps to foster consistency in the relationship between parent and grandchildren, communicating that you are on the same team. For some, a consistent home life is dependent on a grandmother as there is no consistency in the home, like with NBA superstar LeBron James. Tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams were also raised by their grandmother, providing a stable and supportive home environment. There are many societies in which grandparents provide vital support.
There may be instances where a child will confide in a grandparent before a parent. This is where the active engagement with grandchildren, understanding their interests, dreams, and challenges is important. Our granddaughters are in dance and their groups compete often. We have found ourselves at these competitions with loud music blaring and made-up girls running around getting to their next staged event. Even though I didn’t grow up experiencing this culture, it has instilled discipline and a tremendous sense of responsibility for our granddaughters, which is of huge value. So we show up and support.
Two: Create Lasting Memories
Ideally, it’s fun to plan special outings, adventures, or activities that create lasting memories for your grandchildren. Whether it's a camping trip, cooking together, or simply playing games, the focus on creating positive and enjoyable experiences that they will cherish for years to come is a privilege. However, many grandparents don’t have that opportunity.
However, there are little things you can provide when the grandkids come over. I have set up a project table for the kids every holiday, providing craft kits. I never spend too much but even if I did, it would be well-worth it. We also have a small table in our main living room with a basket of color books, crayons and markers. Underneath the table are boxes of Lincoln logs.
Books are in another room down the hall, but our granddaughters know where to go to grab them. Reading, building log structures out of Lincoln logs, painting and coloring are all projects that they will do often when visiting and will remember when adults. We’ve also picked fruit from our trees together and squeezed the juice. Every situation and home is different and depending on time and resources, the sky’s the limit for creative projects. Most any project can build memories!
Three: Preserve Family Traditions
Embrace the role of a storyteller and keeper of family history. Pass down cherished traditions, stories, and cultural heritage to your grandchildren, instilling a sense of belonging and pride in their roots. It’s fun to bring out photos and laugh together. They may ask, “Did Nana really wear that?” (when they see my seersucker plaid suit that I sewed myself!) “Gramps played professional baseball? How did he get that good?” There are stories that will be lost unless we tell them. We want them to know they are a part of a longer legacy and history is longer than ten or twenty years!
In our family, we often tell stories of how we’ve celebrated holidays together and work hard at bringing all family members together for the main holidays. I tell the story how my dad grew up milking cows without a milking machine. Ideally, we’d love our grandkids to experience some of the places where our parents grew up, but that is not always possible, so photos and stories are important.
With traditions come life lessons, whether for a strong work ethic, personal faith or commitment to a certain cause. One tradition I was thinking of bringing back was putting symbols on gifts instead of names to label who they were for, especially at Christmas. My mother did this one year with all her dozen grandchildren, and subsequently forgot what the symbols meant creating a lot of chaos with the wrong gifts going to the wrong child but laughter that lasted for hours. The first year I did this with our kids and grandkids our sons burst into laughter and told the story with much exaggeration. Those symbols may show up again, you never know. Laughter brings people together.
Four: Be a Source of Unconditional Love
Show your grandchildren unwavering love, acceptance, and support. Provide a safe and nurturing environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves and seeking guidance without judgment. This doesn’t mean there are no boundaries, but it provides a safe place of acceptance and love, which is a huge gift for a child.
If you don’t have any grandchildren yet, or don’t see yourself in that role in the future, there are plenty of children who would love to have a grandparent-like figure in their life. Anonymously giving or giving in person to a less-fortunate child could make all the difference in a child’s life—and in yours. Gifts can also be of time, which increases in value as the years go by. The role of a grandparent is a mental attitude of giving but you get back so much more than you can ever give.
IDEAS TO SPARK YOUR IMAGINATION:
Westways Magazine (Automobile Club)
Best Trips to take with Grandkids from Travel and Leisure
If you don’t have any grandchildren yet, or don’t see yourself in that role in the future, there are plenty of children who would love to have a grandparent-like figure in their life.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning