You may have seen the recent article about an Illinois couple celebrating the birth of their 100th grandchild! Wow. Turns out he was actually their 46th great-grandchild, but who’s counting technicalities? They do have 53 actual grandchildren and even one great-great. I guess it helps when you start out with 12 children.
Grandpa says they welcomed each grandchild as if he or she was their first. And that says a lot — both about the couple themselves and also about that special grandparent-grandchild bond. It’s something special.
This relationship isn’t anything new. Most of us have experienced it ourselves with our own grandparents – back when we were the youngsters. Because they aren’t the ones that have to make rules and enforce discipline on a daily basis, grandparents can be the safe harbor. They provide unconditional love for these kids of their kids. But that’s not to say they can’t offer advice, be the voice of reason, and yes, even suggest that the child may be wrong. Have you ever noticed? Even strict parents often become softies when presented with a grandchild.
No matter what may be going on at home or at school at any given time, an emotional bond with grandparents will go a long way toward making a grandchild feel loved and supported.
And of course it goes both ways. The adoration of a three-year-old can make a grandparent melt. The aches and pains that, unfortunately, often come with aging don’t seem as important when you’re playing a game of hide and seek with one of your favorite little people.
Time together doesn’t have to be much more than that. You don’t have to plan a special event in order to have fun with a grandchild. Sometimes hanging out is enough. Baking cookies, taking a walk, watching TV, reading books and looking at photos can be just as rewarding as attending an event. On the other hand, sometimes events allow grandparents to share their special interests with a grandchild. A day at the ballpark or the theater will expose kids to new activities and builds lifelong interests – ones that you and your grandkids can continue to share.
But it doesn’t have to be expensive. My dad –whose father used to work on the Soo Line Railroad — started taking my son to watch the trains when he was a toddler. That led to an electric train set which got more and more elaborate over the years. My son, now 30, still has it.
Staying in touch is one important element of building a relationship with your grandkids. And since real-life visits aren’t always possible between families that are spread far and wide, God bless the person who invented Skype! Children grow so fast – it’s fun for grandparents to see and hear from the grandkids on a regular basis. Being able to see that gap from a newly missing tooth or hear them discuss their school friends or how they scored the winning goal brings you closer in spite of the miles between you. It’s the next best thing to being there – and should happen at least once a week if possible.
Here are some important things that the generations can learn from one another. Let’s start with what grandchildren can learn from their grandparents.
A new skill. With so much technology and so many services available to us these days, it’s easy for kids to forget that people can actually do some of these things themselves! Baking, sewing, woodworking and working on an old car are just some of the many skills that are both useful and fun to do. So teach them how!
Family history. Both of my parents are gone now and my sister and I often wish we had someone to ask about things from the past. When grandparents share family history with the grandkids starting at a young age those memories live on. Where did the older generations come from? Where did they live and what did they do? Who was married to whom and how are their kids related to you? The kids not only learn family history but facts about that time period as well, based on when these ancestors lived. And as a grandparent, it’s fun to relive these memories and pass them on.
Playing games. If you live in a senior living community, you may still play games today — because as a senior you learned those games when you were young. Learning how to play bridge, euchre, gin rummy and cribbage were a part of growing up. And they’d still be fun today — especially for family game night or a vacation where technology is limited.
How to have a sense of humor. While many people say a good sense of humor is one of the traits they value most, today’s world is so full of stories about cyber bullying, public shaming and “mean girls” that it make you wonder if people really understand humor anymore. Grandparents can help kids understand how to joke and tease without being mean. And most importantly, how to laugh at themselves. It’s a trait that will reap lifelong benefits – and many friends.
And now here’s a small sample of what grandparents can learn from their grandkids.
Technology. Ever notice how your 4-year-old grandson has the innate ability to use any remote control but you can never even remember which one does what? Grandchildren are a great source for technology tips. From using Facebook to sending email photos to watching Netflix, they can help.
Games. Wait – didn’t we just have that? Nope – now it’s the kids’ turn to show grandma and grandpa how to play Candy Crush, Words with Friends and online Solitaire.
Seeing the world through new eyes. From the wonder of watching a caterpillar crawl to the joy of doing something for the very first time, grandkids can teach seniors to slow down and appreciate the simple pleasures all around them.
Any way you look at it, grandparents and grandchildren have the opportunity to share a very special bond. Don’t let it slip away!
And by the way, when you live at one of the Discovery Village Senior Living Communities, you could have your grandkids visit any time you want! After you all play a game of cards, they can show your neighbor how to program her DVD player and then stop in the ice cream parlor for a treat. Life is sweet.
Discovery Village at Sarasota Bay offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 941.209.3466.