Next to you, grandparents are the most important people in the world to your children.
Think about all the roles grandparents can and do play in their grandchildren's lives. A grandparent is a living ancestor, family historian, role model for how to age gracefully, teacher, mentor, helper (to both the child and the child's parents), student (we old folks can learn about today's music and computers from our grandkids), nurturer (we all need as many of these as we can get), genie/wizard (grandparents can make magical things happen), crony/pal, playmate, hero.
No one else embodies all of these possible roles--and has fun doing it!
What do grandparents provide to their grandchildren? A bunch of valuable things like unconditional love; stability; sense of family and identity; culture; knowledge (family roots, other generations); exposure to older people in general; exposure of their individual personality, interests and skills; cushioning; courage; reinforcement of moral values; emotional and other support for the children and their busy parents.
This is not a one-way street. Grandparents get LOTS back from their grandchildren. What specifically do grandchildren provide for their grandparents? The most important thing is FUN! But grandchildren also provide a way to keep young and healthy, antidotes to isolation and boredom, a sense of the future, connections, a means of staying current, playfulness, a meaningful, valued role, a special kind of love, a special kind of pal.
Wise parents realize what an important relationship this is and make every effort to make it happen. Holidays together are great but try to find other ways of including grandparents in your children's lives.
It's easy when the families live nearby but, alas, this is not often the case these days. Long-distance grandparenting can work (none of my own grandchildren live closer than a thousand miles) but it takes extra effort. We visit frequently, we take vacations together, we speak every day on the telephone with our twin grandkids who are eight, when the twins go online we will email daily, as soon as they are a bit older we will send them plane tickets to visit us as "unaccompanied children."
In the long run the most important thing any of us have is our CONNECTIONS TO OTHERS. This special bond between grandchild and grandparent needs attention and nurturance.
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