Grandparents Connected: Its a Parents Job
by Susan Newman, Ph.D.
parents canand shouldplay a pivotal role in your childrens
lives. An analysis of intergenerational relationships conducted
by the Legacy Project shows that in order for children to completely
develop socially and emotionally, they need at least four to six
involved, concerned adults who interact with them. In todays
world, parents time is stretched thin by work, care-giving
and social responsibilities leaving plenty of room for grandparents
to step in. Grandparents need only encouragement and reassurance
from you to become those crucial involved, concerned adults.
As many as nine out of ten adult grandchildren feel their grandparents
influenced their standards and morals, according to the Legacy Project.
Without grandparent influence, children may experience challenges
and conflict not only within the family but also outside it. As
a parent it is your job to help your parents cement the grandparent-grandchild
Spell Out the Benefits
Most grandparents are aware of the positives and uniqueness they
offer. Nonetheless, make sure your parents know that it is important
to you for them to play a big part in your childrens childhoods.
Say the words, Im so happy you are here to be part of
(childrens names and events, this celebration
Your parents cant read your mind. And, even if they know you
so well that they realize what youre thinking, its nice
to hear the words, to be valued and appreciated out loud.
Tell them that you are grateful for the advantages they provide,
Additional support, love, and friendship for your children
Being a part of a growing childs life and being able to share
in his or her experiences and successeslarge or small
Helping your offspring develop a positive attitude about aging and
allowing him or her to gain a better understanding of the life process
Educating grandchildren about the familys history and origins
Teaching family traditions first hand
Sharing stories from their parents past
The pluses and sense of security grandparents give can be monumental
in a childs life, but it can be difficult for grandparents
to gage how much participation is appropriate and how much you want.
You need to have an active voice because you are the parent, and
be comfortable with your parents involvement which should
remain a supporting one, not one that undermines your authority.
Tips for Overcoming Miles
One of the biggest challenges for grandparents today is not living
near their grandchildren. AARP reports that 66% of all grandparents
live more than a days drive away from their grandchildren.
Distance can put a strain on the grandparent-grandchild relationship,
make it non-existent, if you, the parent, dont keep the lines
of communication open and encourage both your parents and your children
to follow through on all possibilities for keeping the relationship
Try these tips to make sure your parents feel involved in your childrens
Videotape your childrens special activities (school plays,
church outings, sporting events) and send tapes to your parents.
Allow your children to make video messages for grandma and grandpa.
Record them saying hello or singing their favorite songs. Then,
encourage your parents to make video greetings for your children
in return. Suggest they read a book or tell a story about when you
Mail your parents any drawings your children create for them
Send newspaper articles about your children and the events they
Encourage your parents to begin using the internet, no matter how
daunting it may seem to them at first. Children are becoming more
and more computer savvy at very young ages, and it might be easier
for them to keep in touch through emails rather than letters.
The best way to stay connected and keep grandparents in the foreground
is to keep them informed and up-to-date. If your parents are aware
of whats going on in your childrens lives, their next
visit will seem less awkward and conversation will flow easily.
Here, some starters to keep your children connected to grandparents
they dont see frequently:
Regular phone conversations to say Im thinking about you,
I love you
Phone calls to report major and minor accomplishments
Put a picture of grandparents in a prominent spot in your home
Talk about your parents often
Have children sign holiday and birthday cards to grandparents; encourage
them to create their own
Comment on something a grandparent would enjoy if he or she were
Point out similarities between your child and a grandparenta
talent, an interest, a resemblance
Whether your parents live around the corner or several states away,
they can make your childrens lives richer and more meaningful.
Be sure that you help to facilitate their relationships by seizing
every opportunity to enhance them, always bearing in mind that young
children can never have too many caring adults in their lives.
Adapted from Little Things Mean A Lot: Creating Happy Memories with
Your Grandchildren (Random House/Crown).
Susan Newman, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author of The
Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say Itand Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing
Forever (McGraw-Hill), - Parenting an Only Child, The Joys
and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only (Broadway/Doubleday),
and Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel
Special Every Day (Random House/Crown), among others. See: www.susannewmanphd.com