Building Grand Relationships
- Monday, July 16, 2001
Many grandparents today wonder what role they can and should play in their grandchildrens lives. Susan V. Bosak, a leading authority on intergenerational relationships, says grandparents are a vital family link, and today more than ever, children need grandparents.
Many grandparents arent sure how to navigate the modern territory of grandparenthood, says Bosak. The rewards are worth the effort. The relationship can be a second chance for grandparents, give parents much needed support, and offer children a better sense of who they are.
Here are some of Bosaks top tips on how grandparents can get involved in the lives of their grandchildren:
1. Start in the Kitchen: Sure, spending time in the kitchen is a grandma stereotype, but its also the best place to make cozy memories. We relax, smell, taste, talk, and learn things in the kitchen. Something as simple as baking cookies (even if you use a mix!) is a big step toward building a close relationship with grandchildren.
2. Create Your Own Family Book Club: Give or mail your grandchildren a new book each month. Long-distance grandparents can tape themselves reading the story! This is very special for kids. During phone calls, you can make conversation about the books. Then when you are together, you can cuddle up and read them. Through your actions, you are encouraging the important skill of reading.
3. Make it Picture Perfect: Plan a family scrapbook party. Children, parents, and grandparents can choose their favorite photos, and you can decorate themed pages. Its a great way to organize those scattered photo packets, recall family memories, and create a treasured keepsake. If you live far apart, every so often photocopy some old family photos, write a few descriptive lines at the bottom of each, and mail them to your grandchildren. These photos give your grandchildren a sense of family history.
4. Listen, Listen, Listen: Grandparents have much to share with grandchildren, but they should also just listen. Listeningwithout rushing in with advice, comments, or solutionsis THE most important gift you can give children and grandchildren. And, keep in mind that your children will raise their children differently than you did. New parents need to find their own way and make their own mistakes.
5. Two Magic Words: You can build a bond, which involves all three generations. Children need to be encouraged in their relationship with their grandparents, and grandparents need to be appreciated. Parents can play a role through encouraging their children to write a simple thank you note when they get a gift from grandparents. The lack of such acknowledgment of a gift is one of grandparents biggest complaints! Thank-you notes teach children an important social skill.
6. Its the Small Stuff: As the world grows more complex, the simple things matter more. Time is the most limited resource in todays worldand the gift that children need the most. Stay in regular contact (at least once a week). For long-distance grandparents, send small, inexpensive surprises every so oftena colorful postcard, a finger puppet, a balloon with a message on it. These actions say, Im thinking about you.
7. Give Keepsakes: Make sure you give your grandchildren things youve made or that have been in the family. Include a note to enhance the importance and explain the origin of the keepsake. These keepsakes will become something to remember you by.
Susan Bosaks books are Something to Remember Me By and How to Build the Grandma Connection. Both are available from The Communication Project at 800-772-7765.
W. Terry Whalin is a feature writer for Christianity.com. He has written for more than 50 publications and published more than 50 books including Prayers For My Son and Prayers For My Daughter.
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