It is understandable why a close relationship with your grandchildren will have a positive effect on their life. An overwhelming amount of research has gone into this topic, and psychologists and social scientists alike are all in agreement. Studies continue to reveal the importance of a child’s relationship with their grandparents.
As people live longer, these bonds become even more important. For grandparents, this bond creates ties with a much younger generation and exposure to different ideas. On the flipside, grandparents can offer wisdom and a perspective that young people can put into practice as they navigate their transition to young adulthood.
The grandparent-grandchild relationship is different than one of a parent. Unless a grandparent is a primary caregiver, it is more a role of guidance than a disciplinarian. To keep this bond strong and positive, here are some helpful guidelines to foster this rewarding relationship:
Be present in their life as much as possible
Time goes by fast, and the bonds you create with your grandchildren grow deeper with regular shared experiences. But not all grandparents have the luxury of proximity. Even if you can’t be there physically for every milestone or sports game, you can still be ‘present’ in their life in other ways. Technology now allows us to call, text, and even video chat using apps like Facebook, Skype, or Facetime. It’s not how you connect, but the quality and frequency that matters most.
Share stories and family history
Your grandchildren need to know about family history and where they came from. The stories you share fascinates and engages them like nothing else. What was life like when you were their age? What were some of the challenges you faced growing up? Maybe they were different, but often there are connections to your real-life problems and some of the things they face today. Beyond the stories, share photo albums. They will love to see photos of you and their parents and help them better understand your shared experiences.
Play games together
How often can you recall sitting in a room with your grandchild while they are glued to their digital device? Given an alternative, you’ll be amazed at how quickly they can forget about their phone or tablet. When was the last time you played cards or a board game with them? The novelty of playing Go Fish, Yahtzee, or Monopoly can have them quickly forgetting about video games or text messaging. How about sharing a card game you loved as a child? Playing games together is a beautiful way to connect in a meaningful way.
Share the activities you have in common
Maybe you enjoy cooking or hiking, or you played baseball as a child. Share these common interests with your grandchildren. If you don’t have common interests, consider introducing them to an activity you enjoy. Sharing your hobbies and interests is a great instructional moment that exposes young people to an entirely new world – be it gardening, bird-watching, cooking, or painting.
As a grandparent, you have many gifts to share. Your role as a grandparent is an opportunity for you to be a playmate, mentor, historian, role model, teacher and often, caregiver. This positive influence in your grandchild’s development is profound. How closely you are involved and the impact you make on their life is up to you.