There are amazing benefits of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. From creating a sense of family and history to so much more.
Lately I’ve been reading the Parent’s Guide to Raising a Gifted Toddler and while this whole book is fascinating, I was particularly struck by the section on grandparents.
And why wouldn’t I be? It was my own grandmother who gave me tons of useful advice.
⭐ Including “Start Out How You Can Hold Out.“
⭐ And, “Never marry a man without a hobby or he’ll be under your feet all the time.”
I’ve written before on kids and the elderly and why they are good for one another in general, I wanted to flesh out the grandparent-grandchild mutually beneficial relationship a bit more in this post.
Children benefit from being in relationship with their grandparents
Whether you live near family (which is obviously optimal unless your family is extremely dysfunctional) or you are trying to foster the grandparent / grandchild relationship virtually and with visits, here are some things to consider.
1. Grandparents are storytellers.
I remember hearing my grandmother talk about about walking to school for miles. And how she bought her first car. And told my grandfather he had until she turned 26 to marry her or she was moving to Colorado.
My maternal grandfather was in the navy and knew a man named 5/8 Smith. 5/8 because his parents didn’t want him to be “just another Smith.” Mission accomplished. My paternal grandfather met with President Roosevelt in the White House and was asked to be the Surgeon General.
These stories were exotic, interesting, and gave dimension to my grandparents that I hadn’t known before. I grew up wanting to be with my grandparents because I liked them as people. Storytelling helps that. They aren’t just available sitters to your children, they are full of the unknown. This opens children’s horizons further than their own peer group or the Cartoon Network.
2. Grandparents can give undivided attention.
Whereas parents are often inundated with the “urgent” business of today. Particularly when children are little. Grandparents, when they reach a certain age at least, have a lot more time to just relax and be with the kids. My mother often takes one child at a time to her house for the evening to hang out. They’ll play, have a “spa treatment”, eat dinner, bathe in the sink. You know. The stuff of life. The kids love it, she loves it, and it’s building a foundation for a relationship that will last years.
3. Grandparents have a broader perspective.
The years bring wisdom, don’t they? Well I’ve already talked about how a parent can know they’re making wise decisions, but grandparents add a whole other element to this since they are even more wise than us! Hopefully, anyway. Ha. But at any rate, they’ve lived longer and bring many things to the table that we parents might not. My oldest is only 4, but she will often repeat what her and my mother talked about and it’s often things I just wouldn’t have thought about. I love it!
4. Grandparents can say things parents can’t.
We all hope we have open lines of communications with our children as they get older. I believe there are many ways to do this, and it’s not a given that teenagers go through a period where they don’t want to tell you anything. But still, there are times when a mother or father must simply stand back and trust they’ve given their child the tools to make wise choices. Any pushing may result in the exact opposite result. Grandparents, however, aren’t seen as the closest authority in your child’s lives and a grandparent can often tell your child something (maybe the exact same thing you would say) but it will be received. Simply because it’s not the parent saying it.
5. Grandparents help children learn to interact comfortably with adults.
For me, age has never been an issue. I’ve found it easy to be around people of all ages, and have made many friends throughout the years decades older or years younger. I credit this to being close with my grandparents. It’s a blessing for your children to be able to converse intelligently with older people. I believe it will also put your child at an advantage when they are older because they’ll find it easier to talk with prospective employers, professors, co-workers, and mentors.
How to make the best of the grandparent-grandchild relationship from afar
- Talk regularly through Skype. My husband’s parents are in Australia which makes it difficult to find a good time to talk, and we really need to do better about this. Even so, the kids ask about “granny and grandpa” very often!
- Write letters. My grandmother’s brother and I used to be pen pals growing up. He lived on Cape Cod (which I thought was so cool) and I distinctly remember writing him letters about where I had gone rollerblading. A pen pal 60 years older than myself! I went to the Cape in my 20’s to see him and I’ll always remember he decided if he was to write memoirs, they’d be called It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time… isn’t that a good name for a book?
- Make time. When you are able to have a visit, even a short one, allow your parents or in-laws to have special time with your children without you present. If you trust them, of course. Even if it’s just outside or to the ice cream shop, if you are around the conversation between grandparent-grandchild might never get going if you are around. Allow them to bond.
- Utilize family trees. If your parents or in-laws have family tree information or old yearbooks, etc. let your child read those. You can talk about your parents with them and help them to get to know your family, even if they aren’t around. This will be fodder for conversation when they do see one another.
- Speak well of your family. By speaking highly of the grandparents in their lives, they’ll be interested in maintaining a relationship with them not just as your parents, but as grandparents.
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