One writer called grandparenting the greatest job on earth, handed to you wrapped in a blanket.
That description might have something to do with the grandparenting stereotypes we’re all familiar with. It’s all the fun with none of the responsibility. You get to spoil your grandchildren with questionable levels of fun and sugar, then send them home to their parents.
There may be some truth to that perception, but grandparents can do much more than just create fun memories. They can also play a pivotal role in the lives of their grandkids and can make a huge impact on their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
On our radio programs today and tomorrow, we want to encourage grandparents everywhere to find creative ways to engage their grandchildren. Grandparenting is often thought of as something you do from a distance, but that’s not what’s best for your grandkids. You can play a vital role in their upbringing, and our guests are going to suggest ways you can connect with your grandkids that are not only unique and fun but that will influence them now and for eternity.
One of the best places to start is to be emotionally available – and physically, too, whenever possible – for your grandchildren. Be a consistent sound of applause that cheers them on. Go to their games or music recitals in person. Treat as important what they see as important, and they will feel loved and valued. If you can’t actually be there, then text them afterward and ask how things went. It’s as simple as showing interest and letting them know you’re thinking of them.
Also key is accepting them for who they are. Let them see that you know their strengths and their weaknesses and you believe in them still. Focus not just on whatever struggles they may be going through right now, but on where they can be and who they can become.
Our guests have a saying: “Don’t lose your kids over a haircut.” Well, the same thing holds true for your grandkids. Don’t lose them over a haircut … or a body piercing … or ____ (fill in the blank). You probably won’t agree with all of their choices, but don’t let their decisions (good or bad) become more important than your relationship with them. As long as your connection with them remains open, you have an opportunity to speak into their lives and have a positive influence.
It’s not about accepting what they do. It’s about accepting them as a person. And that is crucial because you may be one of the few people your grandkids’ can turn to for unconditional love.
Another thought is to say “yes” as often as you can. At least, don’t say “no” immediately. This is one of the fun parts of grandparenting – it gives your grandkids a chance to step outside of the usual structure and schedules that likely govern their lives.
Of course, this part requires wisdom. You have to constantly communicate with your children and not overstep boundaries. So don’t buy your grandkids gifts or take them anywhere they request unless you check with your kids first to make sure they approve. They may have very specific reasons why their answer is no, and grandparents need to honor those objectives. Work together with your kids to make sure you’re all on the same page.
Along those lines, let your kids parent their way. There is a fine line between helping and overreaching. Your grandchildren should be a big part of your life, but the ultimate responsibility and decisions for how they are to be raised lies with their parents, not you. So don’t offer your advice for how they as parents ought to run their household unless they ask for it.
Those ideas merely scratch the surface of the practical tips for grandparents we’ll have for you on our program over the next couple of days. We’ll have a lot more ideas for connecting with your grandkids at every age and stage in their lives and how to develop a close relationship even if they live far away from you.
Jerry and Judy are the proud grandparents of five grandchildren, and since we last talked with them a few years back they’ve welcomed their first great-granddaughter.