A Grand Relationship The Close Bond Between Grandparents And Grandchildren
By: Shannon M. Dean
“Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.” ~Margaret Mead
We’ve all seen giddy grandparents in the park eagerly complying with the excited pleas of “higher grandpa” coming from the smiling child on the swing. The bond between a child and his grandparents is entirely obvious, heartwarming, and universal. “It’s the only relationship in which people are crazy about one another simply because they’re breathing,” says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, author of The Grandparent Guide (McGraw-Hill) and founder of The Foundation For Grandparents (www.grandparenting.org). He says grandparents and their grandchildren usually “have an adoration and unconditional love and joy in one another’s existence.”
BENEFITS FOR GRANDCHILDREN
Experts say the physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits of a healthy grandparent and child relationship are significant for all parties. Grandparents can help children gain a sense of history, heritage, and identity as well as a vital connection with the past. Like no one else, grandparents can pass on important family traditions and life stories that the child will not only relish when young, but will grow to appreciate even more as he gets older. Having involved grandparents can also reassure children they can love and depend on someone other than their parents.
Susan Bosak, author of How to Build the Grandma Connection (Communication Project) says that children who have strong ties to involved, caring grandparents develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure), and can even have better grades. She says since grandparents’ parenting and intense working commitments have usually passed, they typically have time to offer the undivided attention that tired, busy parents sometimes can't. Bosak often hears children explain that grandparents are always happy to show them things other people are “too busy for” or give them the “real scoop” on family stories their parents would rather they not hear, like the time dad hit a baseball through the kitchen window.
BENEFITS FOR GRANDPARENTS
Likewise, grandparents also reap numerous benefits from a close relationship with their grandchildren. The desire to be there as a child grows has encouraged many grandparents to remain active, to educate themselves on current events and issues important to children and to take a greater interest in their own health.
Cindy Giallombardo was struggling with painful multiple myloema (plasma cell cancer) when her first grandchild Kyle was born. She was devastated by the fear she wouldn’t have much time left to spend with him, but when he wrapped his tiny hand around her finger, she vowed she wouldn’t give up so easily: “I knew I had to get control of my health because there was no way I was going to let anything steal one second of the time I had with him.” Because she wanted to see her grandson achieve major milestones, she partook in every treatment option available to her, even those painful or experimental, a road she says she may not have taken if Kyle hadn’t motivated her. Kyle, now seven, has no idea he’s had such an impact on his grandmother. He only knows without a doubt “she loves me more than anything” and he loves riding with her on her scooter, swinging on her tire swing, and repeatedly hearing about the time his mom lost control of a golf cart, ran it into a ditch and took the family’s mailbox with it.
STAYING IN TOUCH
Not all grandparents are able to be as hands-on as they would like, but even those who live far away can still have a huge impact on a child’s life. With a little effort from all parties and the help of modern technology, the relationship can grow and endure. Allan Zullo, a grandfather who co-wrote the book A Boomer’s Guide To Grandparenting (Andrews McMeel Publishing) says: “Being a grandparent is not an honorary position; We have a strong role to play even if we’re not living in the same town. We can still have a great impact on someone’s life and we want to share the good things we have learned to make someone’s life better.” He encourages long distance grandparents to share any hobbies which interests their grandchildren and to then schedule time to work on mutual projects. That could mean you both complete quilt squares while apart and then get together to complete the quilt, or work on separate cars for one model train you’ll connect during spring break. Some other ideas to keep ties strong: Consider allowing grandchildren to spend part of school breaks with their grandparents. Use the internet to play games together and send emails and photos. (If grandparents aren’t logged on, children often love to receive snail mail.) Ask grandparents to video or audio record themselves reading a favorite book, or sharing their own stories and memories. Finally, allow and encourage grandchildren to ask lots of questions. (See suggestions below). Grandparents love to share stories and children love to hear them.
BENEFITS FOR PARENTS
Experts say a smart parent will make every effort to forge strong bonds between their children and grandparents or even a grandparent figure. Who else will truly understand, love and value your child the way you do? And they’re usually more than happy to give you a break from child rearing every now and then. By showing your children you greatly value their grandparents, you’re teaching them the importance of maintaining close family ties, a skill you will certainly want them to master by the time they have their own children -- your grandchildren. Zullo says, encouraging a loving relationship with grandparents is a special advantage that parents can easily provide: “What a gift to give to a child,” he says, “a family history, a sense of family and their roots.”
Questions For Children To Ask Their Grandparents Suggested By The National Grandparents Council (www.grandparents-day.com)
1. Where were you born? What year?
2. Did you have a pet when you were growing up? What was his name?
3. Did you get an allowance? How much?
4. Who was more strict, your mom or dad?
5. What were your favorite games and activities?
6. What chores were assigned to you?
7. What did your house look like? Is it still the same?
8. Did your house have electricity when you were young?
9. What traditions did your family have?
10. Did your family have big reunions?
11. Did you like school? What kinds of grades did you get?
12. What were your favorite subjects?
13. When you were a teenager, what time did you have to be home at night?
14. How old were you when you met grandma/grandpa?
15. How old were you when you got married?
16. What was your first job?
17. Tell me about my mom/dad when he/she was growing up.
18. What makes you proud of my mom/dad?
19. Have you accomplished what you wanted in life?
20. What advice would you like to give me?
About the Author:
Shannon M. Dean is a freelance writer who specializes in families. She writes memoirs and life stories for families all over the country. For more information, visit her website at www.shannonmdean.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org