Grandparents make a difference in their grandchildren's lives. Time spent together manifests itself in healthier, happier grandchildren. Research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel that their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors. Across the nation, inter-generational households are on the rise. Many children are raised by their grandparents. Today's grandparents are active and involved. They have valuable experience and knowledge to share. There are many gifts that grandparents can share with their grandchildren. Below are the six gifts that we learned about from Rev. Dr. Tanya Marie Eustace Campen at a recent grand-parenting conference, "Growing in Discipleship Together".
As grandparents we all want to make the most of the precious family time we get to spend with our grandchildren. You can create deep, loving relationships with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love and by learning about what excites them. Whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living thousands of miles away, you can find new ways to strengthen family ties and provide your grandchildren with joyful memories and valuable life lessons.
- Carve out one-on-one time. On occasion, spend time with individual grandchildren. It will give you an opportunity to bond without competition for your attention.
- Play games. Board and card games offer a unique opportunity to watch your grandchildren in action and to see how they operate in the world. Games also offer an opportunity to help your grandchildren learn to be a good sport and play fairly.
- See the sights. Concerts and play, movies, museums, parks or walks in the neighborhood provide opportunities to be together and to exchange ideas and opinions.
- Take a trip or share your favorite place. Special trips, whether it's a day trip to a national park, a weekend in a nearby city, or a week-long resort vacation, will always be remembered by the child as a special journey.
- Host a "Grandma/Grandpa Camp". Invitations for a sleepover at your house for a couple of days or a week can be especially fun if you are a long-distance grandparent. Bringing cousins from different states/families together is a great way for them to get to know each other, and you!
Setting a good example for your grandchildren may seem like a no-brainer, but grandparents are uniquely positioned to teach some real life skills. Sitting, talking and really listening to your grandchildren as you share life lessons can make a big difference in how they live their lives—and often they’ll listen to you when they won’t listen to their parents. Grandparents have a unique opportunity to teach respect and values through modeling good behavior, helping others, and being thankful.
As important as it is for parents and grandparents to encourage, love and support their children, it is empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves. Grandparents can help empower their grandchildren through affirmations:
- "I know you can do this. How can I help you?"
- "That was a very good decision."
- "You are good at figuring things out."
- "I am proud of you."
- "You are very brave....strong....thoughtful..."
All families have a unique history comprised of milestone events and filled with a diverse cast of characters. This history of a family is passed on in the telling of its stories. The richest families are those in which the stories have been remembered, treasured, and incorporated into the spirit of the family.
Grandparents, more than anyone else, are the keepers of the family stories. When grandchildren hear the family’s stories they learn who they are and from where they came. Research has shown that children who know something of their roots and the history of their family have stronger self-esteem. Through the family stories, children are given a sense of belonging and they develop a family pride. Stories about the family ancestors tend to build confidence in children and empower them.
Have you ever wondered why some experiences are fleeting while others seem to last forever? Part of the answer lies in memory markers that connect us to something meaningful and help us ground our memories. Memory markers can involve our five senses, such as a beautiful sunset, music, or the taste and smell of home cooking. Or, they can be tied to physical objects, like a treasured Christmas ornament, the t-shirt from your first 5K run, or a favorite spot at the lake where we feel especially close to God. Memory markers can be created by a, single, meaningful event or through repetition and rituals. Grandparents are in a unique position to create memory markers for our grandchildren through liturgy and rituals.
- Pay attention. Help children see God in their lives by asking them, "How did you experience God today?" If you are with them when they see something frightening (like a car accident or fire), guide your grandchildren to look for people doing good work, such as helpers and emergency response personnel. Make it a habit to hug or shake your grandchild's hand and say, "Thank your for....[good thing]." Be thankful and pray together.
- Take Time. Be intentional about spending time together. Plan activities that support Christian values. Share stories and establish habits that create memories through repetition. For example, hide a treat in a special spot for children to find when they come for a visit. Even adult grandchildren will find it hard to resist looking in that special cabinet or cookie jar for the treat that is always there!
- Do holy work together. Volunteer to help others. Encourage grandchildren to be kind to others and learn to share by going with you as you deliver unused items to Goodwill or serve meals to the homeless.
- Bless each other. (See below.)
As grandparents we can help our grandchildren keep their eyes and hearts open to the wonder of the world around us. Create an open space and time to wonder when you are together and ask wondering questions. For example, after reading a story you c ask, "I wonder....."
- ...where you would be as a character in the story.
- ...what's your favorite part of the story.
- ...what you learned.
- ...what could have been left out of the story.
- ...what you wonder.
- ...how you shared God's love today.
A blessing can be as simple as making the sign of the cross on your grandchild's forehead and saying, "I love you. God loves you. You are a blessing." You can select ribbon in two colors (their favorite and your favorite) and tie them together on a lunch box or book bag to remind them of the blessing. If teenagers are shy, you can simply say the words aloud to them after they are (or seem to be) asleep. They may or may not hear you, but they will receive the blessing and know that they are loved. There are many ways to bless your grandchildren. Be creative and find your own special ways to share your love.