Few things in life are as significant as becoming a grandparent. This familial growth creates opportunities for nurturing relationships and enduring legacies. As a grandparent, you create those legacies by sharing the activities you love as well as by listening to your grandchildren. You have an opportunity to influence a developing mind, to support your own children in their role as parents, and to provide joy in a child’s life.
Typically, as a grandparent, you are not part of the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting. Your presence, however, provides a child with continuity to an extended family. You can share family histories, funny stories of their own parents, and the traditions of your own upbringing. Additionally, contact with grandparents can teach children positive attitudes towards aging.
The most important activities between a grandparent and grandchild start with time spent together. This time is unique and essential. You share the things you love with your grandchild, while at the same time learning about the events, activities, and people that excite them. An excellent path towards nurturing this relationship is to enjoy leisure time together. Slow down; spend time outside, on a hike, or going to the pool. Sometimes the simple activities bring the most joy.
Of course, not all of us live close to our grandchildren. In fact, in this age of mobility, more and more grandparents live further and further away from their kin. A child’s life evolves very quickly, so special efforts are required for those long-distance relationships. However, the extra work is the foundation for a strong long-term relationship. Start at an early age, working with the parents to keep you up-to-date on your grandchild’s growth and interests. When the child is old enough to interact, whether on the phone, via email, or through regular mail, start engaging the child directly.
The digital age has broadened the capabilities to stay engaged and in contact with grandchildren. Email, instant messaging, video chat, and even social media networks provide multiple avenues to remain engaged with grandchildren. Try to use digital technologies for more than simple “How ya doing” questions. Start an online book club or fantasy sports league with your grandchild, or share videos of you or your grandkids enjoying a favorite hobby. The technology creates multiple avenues for increased interaction, particularly if geographical separation limits face-to-face contact.
Research notes the bond between grandparent and grandchild is a pure form of love and support. Grandparents provide an emotional safety net and a strong relationship with a grandparent creates an emotional security as well as respect and healthier attitudes towards older persons. Many successful young adults declare their one-on-one relationships with their grandparents as important aspects of their development. Creating this nurturing relationship, however, does not come without work. As a grandparent, you must share activities, communicate openly, hand down traditions, and stay in touch despite likely geographical separation. In the end, building and maintaining a relationship with your grandchild takes planning and foresight. However, the rewards are immeasurable. The investment pays dividends for the entire family.