“Grandparents, like heroes, are as necessary to a child’s growth as vitamins.” –Joyce Allston
Ours is a world in a rush. As parents, we love our children, so we hurry them off to the best schools, tuitions, sports sessions, music classes and so on. We work ourselves into the ground to give them the best of comforts. The consequence of all this is very little time to nurture, care for and love our children. We need to take time out for our children and just be there for them. We cannot pass that responsibility on to someone else. Yet in the midst of all our challenges our own parents can be a new lease of life to our children.
As Bill Cosby put it, “Because grandparents are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.” They are able to move beyond the petty things and extend more grace, kindness and acceptance to the young ones. Even once-strict parents become indulgent grandparents.
Marcy DeMaree said, “What is it about grandparents that is so lovely? I’d like to say that grandparents are God’s gifts to children. And if they [grandchildren] can but see, hear and feel what these people have to give, they can mature at a fast rate.”
No wonder we call them “grand” parents. They are able to be involved in our children’s life with a greater level of parenting.
Grandparents have an amazing opportunity to leave a legacy that will last generations. Indeed this will possibly leave a greater impact than even their best moments of career successes.
Attention, Grandparents! Here’s what you as a grandparent can bring to your grandchildren: Building special memories together, by lovingly investing time in their lives.
Now that you may have more time to spare, what better way to spend it than on your grandchildren, freely, and build a special bond that lasts beyond your lifetime. Even if you live far away, you can connect through the internet, phone, letters and so forth. If you make this a priority from the time the kids are young, even in their teenage years you can be their refuge.
They are your children’s children
Respect your child as a parent and work with – not against – them. Ultimately your children are the parents and you mustn’t undercut their authority. You can guide, encourage and help but never overrule them, as this will hurt both your relationship with your children and with your grandchildren. So even if you don’t agree with your child’s parenting style it is best not to overrule but to abide. Therefore,
- Be willing to talk things over
- Ask your adult children what kind of help they most need
- Support your adult children in their parenting
- Notice what they do well and tell them
- Ask for their advice. Don’t expect them to take your advice
- One of the best things that you can do for your grandchildren is to support their parents
Accept each grandchild for their uniqueness and do not compare them: God has given you this beautiful opportunity to influence a new generation, so be mindful of the kind of influence you are on them. One of the biggest mistakes a grandparent can make is to compare one grandchild with the other and show favouritism. Your role is to accept each child for who they are and love them in spite of their shortcomings. In the world outside, people draw enough comparisons to damage them. Do not add to their misery but nurture their self-esteem by accepting them for who they are.
Nourish your relationship with each grandchild. Encourage, bless, guide. You are in a unique position of building and nurturing this relationship and using it as God’s instrument to encourage, bless and guide them in fulfilling their potential. Help them stay in touch with their past as they surge ahead by:
- Keeping the family history alive. Help grandchildren to know where they fit in the world by telling stories about the family. Tell them about the childhood of their parents
- Keeping the family connected. Keep in touch with all the family members. Have the whole family together for family events and celebrate yourselves
- Letting the family know about old family traditions as the family grows and changes, and new traditions are built
- Helping them understand godly family values which have survived through the generations but which might be lacking in the outside world. Let every grandchild have a special memory of you
Demonstrate through your life, values and attitudes that you want to see in them. To establish a grand relationship with grandchildren, involve them in your life. They will learn a lot from just watching you.
It is easy to criticise your children for their imperfect parenting and your grandchildren for not meeting your standards. But if you can walk the talk and live out the standards and values that you want them to have, there is a greater chance that they will catch on too. According to Linda Henley, “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”
This article is adapted and reprinted with permission from Family Mantra (www.familymantra.org), a magazine that addresses urban family issues, to strengthen and restore families
Published in the April 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine