5 Reasons to Get (More) Involved in Your
     Grandchild's Life--Today!     
By Lauren Teegarden

Perhaps your grandchildren live next door and they pop in every morning to give you a hug. Perhaps your grandchildren live across the country, three thousand miles away--and you see them no more than once a year. Or maybe you have never had the opportunity to see your grandchild's precious smile. Regardless, decide today to take a step toward deepening your relationship.

1. They'll only be young once, and for that matter, so will you.

While the eighteen years from birth to adulthood can seem long at times, they'll be gone before you know it. After your grandchildren leave home, it will be much more difficult to cultivate a close relationship, since there will be many more distractions--further education, a career, perhaps a serious romantic relationship. By taking the initiative to have a close relationship while your grandchildren are still at home, you will have the momentum to continue the relationship into your grandchild's adult years. Don't miss out on anything--both while you are able to experience it and while your grandchild is able to share important things with you.

2. The future is unpredictable: take a step today.

In two, five, or ten years, who knows how easy it will be to communicate with your grandchildren? Today's distractions won't go away, but the chance to improve your relationship with your grandchild might. Take the initiative today, even if your step is a small one. Send your grandchild an email. Bake them cookies and including a "just thinking of you" note. Plan an event to go to together. The first step doesn't have to be earth-shattering, just thoughtful.

3. Become part of the routine.

You'll have a lasting impact on your grandchildren by consistently playing a role in their lives. If you are available from the time your grandchildren are young, then continuing the relationship through the often-difficult teenage years will be easier. Offer to babysit your grandchildren--not only will it give the parents a much-needed break, but it will provide blocks of time to interact with your grandchildren. Communicate with your grandchildren consistently: a sense of security will develop if your grandchildren can expect a phone call, letter, email, or visit regularly.

4. You do have an influence.

Every grandparent realizes that their grandchildren are their "living legacy." And it's natural to want to pass along values, morals, and family history. The best way to influence your grandchild is not to deliver a long-winded lecture the first time he or she does something you disapprove of; rather, by having a continuous relationship, you will develop a level of trust where they will listen to your views. Set a good example over a number of years, and it's likely that your grandchildren will make the right decisions when the time comes.

5. Don't be afraid to initiate.

Yes, that's right--your grandchildren actually want you to take an active role in their lives! It takes two to form a relationship, but as the mentor, you may find yourself doing more of the initiating. That's okay: your grandchildren appreciate your communication and presence. Don't be afraid to express your desire for a deeper relationship--if your grandchildren don't know that you want to spend more time together, then it will never happen.

Lauren Teegarden is a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.
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