Keeping grandparents grand
This article is courtesy of ParentLife magazine.
It was a cold and snowy day when we said goodbye to our four grown daughters and headed for a new job in another state eight hours away. We felt a tug at our hearts as we moved away from our family for the first time, especially since our daughter and son-in-law had surprised us with the news that they were expecting a baby. This baby would be our first grandchild, so we naturally began to think about what it means to be a grandparent.
Seventy million Americans — about one-third of all adults — are grandparents. Grandparents can be valuable role models and offer support and encouragement. Christian grandparents can model for parents and their children the joys of Christian marriage. Years of experience make grandparents sound counselors, advisors, and confidants. Because of their experiences, grandparents often are able to look at situations more objectively than the parents. Grandparents can be prayer warriors, praying that new parents will fulfill their God-given responsibility to transmit their faith in Jesus Christ to their children. In times of need, grandparents can be financial supporters.
Grandparents also can be a source of baby-sitting.
Many grandparents even find themselves in a parenting role as they have assumed the responsibility for raising one or more of their grandchildren. In the year 2000, 3.5 million children in the United States were growing up in families headed by grandparents. Raising grandchildren can be a positive experience for both grandparents and grandchildren. Grandparents who raise children are more likely to live longer and more active lives.
Many grandparents and grand-children live great distances from one another. We are willing to travel long distances to be with our grandchildren and their parents, but many grandparents cannot do so. Distance can be a negating factor in the role grandparents play. However, steps can be taken to minimize the effect of distance in the role grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren. These suggestions can help keep grandparents and grandchildren connected:
Prominently display pictures of grandparents in your home. Make a point of drawing attention, especially of small children, to the pictures.
Refer to grandparents by the name the children call them.
Many grandparents know how to use computers. Up-to-date photos can be exchanged via e-mail. Our computer took on added value when we started receiving pictures of our grandchildren. We have archived the photos and look back on them frequently.
Encourage older children to call or e-mail grandparents to relate important happenings in their lives. Make it a priority to keep the grandparents involved. We live in busy times with many important matters competing for our time and attention. If we do not prioritize making interaction occur, children will grow up missing the wonderful experience of knowing their grandparents.
Plan family vacations at central locations that would make it possible for grandparents who live a distance from the family to be included.
When the grandchildren are older, leave them with their grandparents for a few days. You and your spouse can enjoy some time alone together. Be sensitive to the grandparents' schedule and energy level when making these arrangements.
Celebrate special events when grandparents can attend, or take the events to them. Alternating with in-laws has to be considered when making arrangements to visit for holidays.
The best gift that you can give grandparents is time with their grandchildren, whether in person or by phone. As parents, find unique and special ways frequently - not just once a year - to let your parents know how much you appreciate their continued interaction with the family.