Children development education and care for grandparent
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
Rachel Carson

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Grandparents

Grandparents are a family's greatest treasure, the founders of a loving legacy. The greatest storytellers, the keepers of traditions that linger on in cherished memory. Grandparents are the family's strong foundation. Their very special love sets them apart. Through happiness and sorrow, through their special love and caring, grandparents keep a family close at heart.

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The role of a grandparent in a child's life

Children development and role of a grandparent in a child's lifeThere are as many answers to this question as there are family configurations and needs. Some grandparenting requires a full-time commitment. For others, grandparenting is a weekend together, an afternoon play date, a summer vacation, a chat on the phone or an email exchange.

Establishing some ground rules with your son or daughter is a good first step to a long and successful relationship with your grandchild. The AARP has some tips to get you started on the right foot. Among their hints: be clear about what role you want to have in your grandchild's life, be kind to yourself and to your children, and check with the child's parents before you buy gifts. They also discuss pitfalls to avoid (like trying to be the parent, or buying affection) and positive actions to take (like respecting the parenting decisions of your adult children, and showering your grandchildren with love).

No matter the specific circumstances, when you are expressing love, showing concern for the child's safety and wellbeing, being consistent in your behavior and paying attention to their needs and words, you are doing the best grandparenting possible.

Tips for spending quality time with your grandkids

The best grandparenting activities flow naturally from the interests of both the grandparents and the grandchildren. You can create a deep, loving relationship with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love with them, and by being available to hear about the ideas and activities that excite them. Some ideas for thinking about activities and ways to spend time with your grandchildren include:

Take it easy together

Make an effort to enjoy leisure time with your grandchildren. As a grandparent, you get to interact with your grandchildren without the same daily pressures of a parent—you don't have to worry about driving carpool or juggle making dinner for the family with soccer practice and grocery shopping. Allow yourself slow down and to become really absorbed in an activity. Remove the normal boundaries of the day and spend time with your grandchildren without thinking about a schedule or what's next on the list to be done. Moving at a slower pace than usual can give children a sense that time can be 'stretched’—that you don't need to hurry through activities. And, as with adults, it gives them the psychic space to feel, reflect and express without feeling rushed.

Go outside

Children love the outdoors, and trips to the park or the beach can be a great jumping off point for some wonderful adventures and happy memories. Nature walks and day hikes can provide lots of interesting things to talk about, and water activities can be especially fun. Throwing stones into the water or watching the tide or the current play with the sticks are simple activities that can be fascinating to children. You can start these activities when kids are toddlers, and expand the games as they get older. Spending time in nature and near water also provides an opportunity to experience stillness.

Share your interests or your work

Engaging in hobbies and activities that you love or your grandchild loves can be a great way to spend time together and learn about each other. Sometimes, activities that you might not expect your grandchildren to be interested in, like knitting or gardening, might turn out to provide an important point of connection for you. Similarly, if you take an interest in something they are passionate about, like trading cards or the Harry Potter book series, they may open up in a new way because they get to share their special area of knowledge.

If you are still working, a visit to your place of work can add a dimension to your grandchild's perception of you. If you are retired, pictures and stories about what your working days were like can do the same.

Making the most of your grandparenting time

  • Carve out one-on-one time. On occasion, spend time with individual grandchildren. It will give you an opportunity to bond, without competition, with that day's companion grandchild.
  • See the sights. Concerts and plays, movies, science centers and museums, parks or walks in the neighborhood provide opportunities to be together and to exchange ideas and opinions.
  • Play games. Board and card games are a unique opportunity to watch kids in action and to see how they operate in the world. Games also allow you to help your grandchild learn to be a good sport and play fairly.
  • Communicate family history. Tell stories about games or trips you shared when the grandchild's parents were young. This is a great way to weave a 'tapestry' of shared experiences for the whole family.

Grandparenting on the road

Grandparent activities for grandchildren developmentTaking a trip with your grandchildren or sharing your love of a favorite place will help you create special memories together. Special trips, whether it be a day trip to a national park, a weekend in a nearby city, or a week-long trip will always be remembered by the child as a special journey with grandma or grandpa.

One of the great advantages of traveling with your grandchild is the opportunity for both of you to be 'away from home.' Being on the road—whatever that looks like for your family—means being free of chores, errands, the computer, the phone—any familiar routine. It means all kinds of possibilities for the unexpected—even on the best-planned trip. All the chances to read train and bus schedules, ride a ferry, stay in a motel or B&B, eat out—or have lots of picnics—offer opportunities to discover new parts of the world, of yourself, and of your grandchild.

Involve the child in the planning in whatever way you think is age-appropriate. Involve his or her parents to be sure they're comfortable with the plans. And hit the road! After you have traveled, an album of that experience can be an ongoing delight for everyone in the family.

Long-distance grandparenting

From the beginning, engage your children in the process. They can help you learn about the stages the baby/toddler/child is going through, what his or her interests are, and what the 'rules of the house' are in regard to appropriate reading/viewing materials. When the child is old enough to interact, whether on the phone, Internet, or through mail, start engaging the child directly. Special efforts to communicate specifically with your grandchild will establish the foundation for a strong long-term relationship.

Grandparenting in the digital age

For the computer-savvy, the Internet can add a whole new dimension to long-distance grandparenting. You'll discover many sites you can share with your grandchildren. And you can visit some of these sites together. The list can grow as your grandchild's interests change and as you discover more of the world—on and off the Internet—together. If your grandchild has his or her own email address, you can Instant Message with them or maybe even set up a ‘chat date.'

Other ways to stay connected

Of course there are many long distance grandparenting activities that have nothing to do with the Internet. There are inexpensive phone cards (even international ones) that make it possible to say in touch regardless of the distance. When you're talking to your grandchildren, make notes about their interests, pets' names, books they've been reading, doll's name—anything you can repeat in the next conversation so they know you've been listening.

“Snail mail,” too, can make remote grandparenting feel less distant. Even before a child can read, he or she will be able to recognize their name on an envelope, and will love the feeling of importance implied by receiving mail or a special phone call. Check out bookstores, and books on tape or CD. Better yet, you can record yourself reading a few of your favorite children's books and send the tape along with the books, or make a tape of songs you would sing if you were together.

When you share photographs, write stories about the people in the pictures, send music cassettes or CD's with your comments on the music. All of these small things communicate your interest and love. Children will respond positively to the special attention and care, allowing you the chance to know them better when you do have the opportunity to be physically with them.

Full-time grandparenting

Divorce, death of parents, or a parent's work or school-related responsibilities are just a few of the reasons grandparents assume full or part-time responsibility for their grandchildren. Part of the task is day-to-day maintenance of a home, schedules, meals, homework and play dates. In cases where tragedy is the reason grandparents are involved, there are many stress factors—grieving on the part of the children and the grandparents, for example—that come into play. If this situation happens to you, know that you are part of a growing community. The AARP article "Facts about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (see below for the link) reports that 6.3% of all children under age 18 in the United States are growing up in grandparent headed households and the number of children in grandparent headed households have increased 30% since 1990. There are resources out there for you—see below for more information and links. Raising your grandchildren, while challenging, can also be incredibly rewarding.

Grandparents’ rights

Some circumstances make it necessary for grandparents to seek legal help. If there's been a divorce, death of one parent, estrangement or the suspicion that your grandchildren are being neglected or abused you may want to consult a lawyer or advocacy group to ensure access to your grandchildren. Two issues arise with regard to grandparenting: custody and visitation. In either event, the goal is to maintain the children's connection to a family beyond the nuclear family. Resources listed below will help you start the process of investigating what your rights are.

Step-grandparenting

Have you married another grandparent? Have your kids become stepparents? Step-grandparenting has grown as a family phenomenon because of the growing number of blended families. These blended family relationships call for compassion, genuine interest, understanding—and patience!

Step-grandparenting can present awkward moments, and create complex relationships—especially if there are already other grandparents in the picture. Children might feel the need to be loyal to the original grandparents and conflicted about giving and receiving affection in the new relationship.

Grandparents, children, and grandchildren all need time to mourn the loss of the biological family. Give yourself and the children time to get to know one another, have fun together. Plan some special times together without an agenda.

Posted with permission from the HelpGuide.org

 

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Grandparents + Children = Love

When a child is born, several important relationships are created—including the relationship between grandparent and child. Like all relationships, the actual nature of the grandparents/grandchild relationship is ever-changing from that moment on.

For the more than 1.3 million children living in grandparent-headed households with no parent present, that relationship is more like a parent/child relationship. For many families—whether by family circumstances or family living choices—grandparents and grandchildren live in the same home and have daily opportunities to interact. Other families experience many miles (even continents) of separation allowing only infrequent visits between grandparents and grandchildren. But even physical distance can be overcome by frequent communication—by letter, telephone, or e-mail.

We know from research the critical impact one caring adult can have to the survival of a child considered vulnerable or at-risk. We know—and can learn much more—about the power and potential of the grandparent’s relationship for any child by listening to and observing the many loving interactions between children and grandparents around us.

What children say about grandparents

  • A grandmother always thinks you are going to get hurt
  • A grandfather is a very old man; long, long ago he was something like me.
  • A grandmother is seriously concerned over germs, but will come to your soccer game and cheer when she doesn’t know what is going on.
  • Grandparents have time to listen; invite you over to sleep; and tell stories about your family.
  • A grandpa comes to school to read and be a friend to my friends.

Over the ages, grandparents seem to be frequently described in terms of what they do for or bring to a young child or the family: mends clothes, makes wonderful stew or cookies not–from-a-box, gets mud out of sneakers, keeps candy in a pocket, walks just to go walking, takes everyone to church to sing, digs worms in the garden, always stops cleaning house to play, goes to the store with you even if she doesn’t need anything, makes a party even when it’s no one’s birthday, sits with you while you do homework as the “eraser lady,” reads stories with his eyes closed, goes fishing just to watch you, takes you to the doctor even when you cry, lets you play in puddles, plays games he can’t win, holds your hand at just the right times, and reminds parents that they were once little children.

Grandparents of the twenty-first century will very likely do many of these same things, and, they also may be engaging in new activities with their grandchildren: making microwave meals, going to children’s museums, exchanging e-mails, writing and illustrating stories on a computer, even building family web sites.

Whatever the activity, the characteristics that grandparents bring to these loving relationships include:

  • Caring and “being there” over time
  • Consistency in the message and the manner
  • Looking for and finding the good in each child
  • Making and taking time
  • Non-judgmental listening
  • Keeping the stories alive
  • Seeing life through the eyes of a child
  • Loving as only a grandparent can love a grandchild.

Posted with permission from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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