Grandparents today play a wide variety of roles including caregiver, role-model, playmate, friend, and family historian. Although children typically view their parents as the center of the universe, grandparents were here first! It is from you that your grandchildren will learn that older individuals have much to offer and are worthy of respect.
(Remember that respect is earned; always acknowledge your grandchildren’s feelings. This is especially true for teens who often feel as though no one understands. Provide a listening ear and advice when asked for, and you will develop a deep friendship with your grandchildren).
Your influence is immeasurable. Even though it may seem as if you are not being heard, they are listening! Your wisdom will be passed on to future generations. Consider how much of what you know you learned from your ancestors!
Grandparenting is an opportunity to play, to ‘fall in love’ again, and rediscover the magic of watching a child grow and develop. Grandparents can share their interests, ideas, and passions with grandchildren who are curious, and in the process, learn to see the world with renewed vision.
How to get the most from your Grandparenting experience:
- Establish some ground rules with your son or daughter: Talk with your adult child to find out how they see your role. Keep the lines of communication open and check in first before purchasing gifts, making plans, and offering advice.
- Respect the parenting decisions of your adult children: Remember that although you may have a difference of opinion about a parenting issue, your grandchild’s parents are the primary authority. If you have an open relationship with your adult child she may be willing to listen to your advice, but be prepared if it is not heeded.
- Take it easy: Because you don’t have to worry about all the day- today issues that parents do, you can relax with your grandchildren and enjoy the activities you do together. Slowing the pace can give your grandchildren the feeling that time is actually ‘stretched out’ when they are with you.
- Share family history: As grandparents you have the unique ability to share ancestral information and stories. Grandchildren typically love to hear tales from ‘the olden days’ especially when it involves childhood stories of their parents. This is a great way to weave a ‘tapestry’ of shared experiences for the whole family.
- If you are the primary caregiver: In today’s society an increasing number of children are being raised by their grandparent/s. This may be especially stressful when a parent has died, there’s been a divorce, abandonment, separation due to military service or jail term, etc. If you find you have become the primary caregiver, know that you are a part of a growing community and resources are available. The American Association of Retired Persons can provide valuable information. (aarp.org or 1-888-687-2277).
Grandparent’s rights: What are they? If you feel that your access to your grandchildren is at stake, and you have exhausted all efforts to resolve your difficulties, you may find it necessary to seek legal advice. An attorney can inform you of the laws in your particular state. AARP also has great resources which can be found on their web site, www.aarp.org.