Seeing our children grow up to have children of their own is one of life’s great joys and privileges, and it reminds us of how life is a circle, with so many stages and cycles. As grandparents, we try to provide the right blend of support and independence to help our grandkids grow up with a positive, influential family presence around them.
Here are a few ideas to be the best Grandparent you can be:
Patience: The best grandparents tend to be full of patience – for their grandchildren as well as for their grandchildren’s mom and dad. Even if your grandchildren are boisterous or sometimes misbehave, the best grandparents know that it’s all part of growing up.
Generosity: The most successful grandparents tend to be generous – not necessarily in terms of buying toys, gifts and offering financial generosity, but generous with their time, generous with their hospitality and generous with advice (when asked).
Unconditional Love: The best grandparents are a rock-solid foundation of love in a child’s life. Children need to know that no matter what might be going on in their lives, no matter what disappointments they might encounter at school or on the street out in the world, they are always safe and loved at grandma’s house.
Empathy: Successful grandparents learn once again how to see the world through a child’s eyes. This is a surprising and wonderful privilege of being a grandparent – we get to interact with our grandchildren and live life, for a little while, with their sense of time and their capacity for wonder.
Willingness to Listen: The best grandparents know how to listen. Just being there to listen to your grandchildren’s stories and encourage their enthusiasm is a wonderful gift to give.
Detachment: Detachment doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your grandchildren – it means you know how to maintain a healthy distance without meddling or constantly injecting your own views. Even if your own (grown) son or daughter isn’t doing everything “the right way” or “the normal way” in raising your grandkids, even if they follow different traditions or aren’t raising your grandkids in the same church or faith as you, the best grandparents know how to let things be and allow your grown children to chart their own course as parents.
Presence: Being a grandparent isn’t always about buying gifts or hosting dinners or taking your grandchildren on special vacations or anything like that. Aside from all of the fun things to do together with your grandchildren (which are wonderful), some of the best gifts you can offer your grandchildren are just the gifts of your time and your presence. Children learn a great deal just from being in the same room with you, watching how you prepare a meal, listening to you sing your favorite song.
Seeing multiple generations of their family is an important way for children to learn who they are and how to live. This transmission of identity and family connection can be one of the greatest and simplest gifts of all.