A post from my wife Maya. Perhaps its the upcoming holiday, that made her write this post.
My grandmother is a quiet person, and I don’t have memories of conversations or bedtime stories. What I do remember is the unconditional love that I received. Since becoming a parent and watching my parents and in-laws become grandparents, I have a new found appreciation for the role grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren.
That said, not all grandparent-grandchild relationships progress easily. Sometimes distance hinders the development of a meaningful relationship. In other cases, the generation gap may make one or both parties feel uncertain about how to connect with one another. Then there are cases where blended families or trouble between family members come in the way of a smooth relationship. However, with a little effort and the readiness to try new things, there are many ways in which you can overcome obstacles and help your children build a meaningful relationship with their grandparents.
Even if the kids already have a great relationship with their grandparents, encourage them to try out the ideas listed below to add more fun and excitement to their time together. And if you happen to be a grandparent, these tips are for you as well.
- Keeping in touch. If the grandparents aren’t in touch with the kids, that’s the first place to start. If you live close-by make sure to take the kids over on a regular basis, and also to invite the grandparents home. If you live in different cities, use technology to bridge the distance between you. Rather than making phone calls, use Skype or Google hangout so that you can see each other as you talk. If your kids are really young, keep the grandparents updated about their milestones and send them pictures, videos and voice recordings of the kids on a regular basis. As they grow older, you still play an important role in fostering the bond between them. Keep the grandparents informed about important events in the kids’ lives so that they have something to talk about when they interact with each other. Whether you use email or regular mail, encourage the kids to write letters to their grandparents. Grandparents, send the kids small, inexpensive gifts in the mail. That will certainly get them excited about receiving mail from you.
- Hanging out together online. Video conferencing is one thing, and hanging out online is another. The internet is an important part of kids’ lives and it will mean a lot to them if their grandparents make an effort to connect with them online. Play different kinds of online games with your grandchildren and see how it instantly changes your relationship for the better. A kid-friendly virtual world game is best for this purpose, as it means that you and your grandkids can chat and have fun adventures together without you worrying about your arthritis or keeping up with them. If you’re having trouble understanding the game, ask the kids for help! For younger kids, you can try out the website Grandparent Games, which is all about connecting with grandkids and being a part of their early learning.
- Teaching the kids a new skill. Do you have a hobby that you think you could introduce to the kids? Gardening? Fishing? Baking? Knitting? Kids are quick and eager learners, and they will love spending time with you learning a new skill. Give them the first few lessons when you are physically there with them, and later on your hobby can be a great way to connect over long distances.
- Sharing stories of the past. Kids love hearing stories about when the adults in their lives were kids just like them. Who better to tell these stories than the one who was there for it all? Tell the kids interesting and funny stories about when their parents, aunts and uncles were kids. Don’t forget to talk about your own childhood as well.
- Building a family tree. Help the kids get to know their extended family by building a family tree with them. The kids are likely to have lots of questions about the people they aren’t very familiar with, and talking about them is a great way for you to bond with the kids.
- Vacationing together. Traveling is always a great way to bond. Take the grandkids with you on a vacation they’ll never forget. If this isn’t a viable option for you, even a simple day trip will do. If you live in different cities, you can spend a day taking them to all the local tourist attractions in your hometown.
There are many other small ways in which you can strengthen the bond between grandparents and grandkids. I’d love to know what activities your family does together to help build this invaluable relationship.