Your grandchildren are growing up too quickly. I know because just yesterday my first grandson was born and now there are three of them and the eldest is nearly nine. Where did the time go? Before I know it they’ll all be teenagers ready to hop out of the nest and maybe, just maybe, they’ll remember all the times I hugged them, fed them and generally had a part in their lives. It’s difficult for me as it is for many of you, because we live nine hours away.
What can we do to remain an important part of their lives? How can we be the stable, encouraging elders we so long to be? Here are some tips to keep the relationship with our grandchildren both fresh and enduring.
1) When you can, be there. Whether it’s a piano recital, a ball game or a school play, if it’s at all possible, be there. It doesn’t matter if little Jimmy is only a caterpillar or a tree, he’s performing and he’ll be thrilled if you’re in the audience. If you can’t attend, call him to get the whole scoop on the event.
2) Keep in touch. With all the ways we have to communicate these days there is no excuse for allowing months to go by with no contact with your grand-children. Send an e-mail, play a game via computer, make a phone call on Skype, or make the supreme effort and send a card or letter. How about a round-robin letter that travels between all the grandchildren and circles back to you?
3) Approve. Your grandchild needs to know that you approve of him or her. Is there a nose ring or tongue piercing or some other mind-bending hurdle to jump over? Never mind—stick to the things you do love and enjoy. Children have always found ways to exasperate their elders, but you need to be one of the people he or she can always count on to approve of their essential being.
4) Share your thoughts. Even though children will always want gifts and will appreciate all the goodies you give them over the years, they will benefit far more from the stories you tell them and the insights you share. They won’t want a lecture, but they’ll be all ears if you tell them some of your life lessons. What are the values you want them to learn? Share your thoughts and include the key events in your own life that brought you to your current beliefs.
5) Remember. Each child is different. Just as you and I value certain holidays, certain activities, certain hobbies or interests, so your grandchildren will treasure certain ones as well. Let them know you recognize the things that are important to them. Ask about their accomplishments in that special area, send magazine articles on their special topic, select gifts based on their interests, or just ask a few questions that will let them know you view them as a unique, interesting and valuable person.
6) Be the anchor. We live in a fast-paced and ever-changing world. Even in family structures there are too many changes and too many losses. Be the person your grandchild can always count on. Be the one who is always available in one way or another and be the one they can trust. Don’t under-estimate the effect you can have on your grandchildren’s self-respect and confidence. You can make a difference.
Our grandchildren will file away in their minds and hearts the experiences they have with us over the years. They may not be able to analyze the relationship until they’re adults themselves, but meanwhile we’ll know we’re giving them our best. Don’t sit back and let the communication gaps grow wider and wider as the children mature—be part of their lives and part of the legacy they take into adulthood.