What Kind Of Grandparents Do You Have In Your Family?
The role of grandparents within the family has changed dramatically, for many, over the past thirty years or so.
Family life is very different now to the way it was when I was growing up. People are living longer; families are often “blended” families – having been through changes due to death, divorce or separation of the children’s parents. Families are often spread across the country or even the world. This can make it harder for Grandparents to provide the traditional role of days past.
If both parents are working, often Grandparents are needed to help with primary childcare or the support of a child who has special needs. With the rise of the Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workforce, Grandparents can be invaluable in supporting the individual parent at home.
It takes a village to raise a child.
The African proverb is that “it takes a village to raise a child.” So, the question is “Do you need Grandparents to successfully raise children?”
While they are not indispensable, Grandparents can play a key role in helping to successfully raise children – even though they might not always be present in the physical sense. They can have enormous degree of influence on their grandchildren, partly because the child recognises their early parental role and because, being one step removed from Mum or Dad, Grandparents can be fun!
Grandparents can be present in a child’s life by “being there” – physically, as a direct presence and emotionally, by being supportive when grandchildren reach out to them.
Being there physically means a telephone call, a visit, sharing an event together or making time to be with that child one on one. A note in the mail, an email, a birthday card from a Grandparent to an individual child has great value and is never forgotten. One of my step-granddaughters recently married, yet tells me she still treasures a book about flowers and fairies I gave to her nearly twenty five years ago. She remembers everything, she says, about the day it was given to her.
Other grandchildren still remember our Easter egg hunts in the bush at Stoneville; being allowed to eat Tiny Teddy biscuits or doing colouring in on butcher’s paper while we tried to draw pictures from fairy tales.
Instilling good values by being there.
You also convey your personal values, ideals, concepts and expectations by “being there” in the child’s life. It is the way the child learns to trust you, for the day they may need to reach out and ask for emotional support. To feel safe enough to ask questions about life issues confronting them.
One national survey of grandparents reported that a variety of activities were engaged in with grandchildren such as:
- * Joking and kidding
- * Giving money
- * Talking about growing up
- * Giving advice
- * Discussing problems
- * Going to church/synagogue
- * Providing discipline
- * Taking a day trip
- * Teaching a skill or game
- * Watching TV together
- * Talking about parent/child disagreements
Building respect for older people.
Having families which encourage intergenerational contact (grandparents; aunts, uncles, cousins) helps build respect for older people. Children become less fearful of old age, the elderly and to be more connected to other people. Grandparents help children learn patience and understanding with the frailties of the human body as it breaks down.
It also helps them learn to deal with death as a natural part of the life cycle. When accidental death occurs with younger people, it can help them cope, if they have already had to deal with the death of an older person.
Reducing the fear of the very old.
When children are very young, the very old can be a little frightening. My elder son was too scared to get out of the car and come inside to see my Grandmother when he was about five and she was about 80. He said to me “No one can be that old and still be alive.”
At the same time, a young cousin stroked his Grandmother’s arm and asked her “Is that really skin, Nana, or is it leather?”
Throughout the years, with their Grandparents living well into their 90’s, my sons and their wives have supported them in many ways and love them dearly.
I have to say my first son didn’t always agree with my “tough love” approach with my Dad, who has recently turned 99. When their beloved Grandmother passed away recently, their support for the family was immense.
Even though other grandchildren don’t live close to them, they use social media and special occasions to make sure their grandparents know they are loved.
Step-grandparents have more challenging roles than natural grandparents, because their place in the family is less clear and often clouded by emotional disputes between the children’s parents and natural grandparents.
The tragedy of denied opportunities for grandchildren.
It is always a great tragedy when children are denied the opportunity to develop good and long lasting relationships with either grandparents or step-grandparents, because of the bitter acrimony which often arises during divorces and separation.
Often, today’s Grandparents are a world away from their own earlier generations of the parents of their own mother and fathers. They may still be working; travelling as “grey nomads” or retired to a different part of the country or the world.
Sadly, some of them will already have passed away and their grandchildren will be the poorer for not knowing them. Not all Grandparents are soft and cuddly, either. Sometimes, it is their own choice to not develop deep relationships with grandchildren and, whatever the reasons, we should respect their right to make a choice.
What kind of Grandparents do you have?
Of course, you can always adopt a Grandparent if you are short of one or two – there are great community programmes for “Finding A Grandparent”. You might like to check it out.
We would love to hear from you, about your family. Tell us what kind of Grandparents you have and why they are special.
Every child deserves to have at least one personalised story, when they are IN the story. And the story comes from you! Click on the image and join us, today!
Be a Grandparent who is “being there?” Give your grandchild the gift of an adventure which helps build their self-esteem and confidence, by facing some unexpected creatures without fear.