Grandchildren

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT


Today’s grandparents tend to act younger, often are still working and have developed active life styles that include travel, volunteer, sport and social activities. Their contact with grandchildren is often very different than that of previous generations. Today’s society is also much more mobile than in the past so that extended families often live some distance from each other. Nevertheless, grandparents can be very important people in a child’s life. 

Rituals

One way for grandparents to make an important contribution in a child’s life is to develop rituals of contact that allow the relationship to develop. These rituals may be weekly, monthly or even annually. One family has a “train night” where the children come every year and put up the grandfather’s childhood train. There are specific activities that surround this train night … it always happens at Christmas, there is always hot chocolate and popcorn while reading “The Polar Express” … spending the night and a morning walk to the candy shop.

Another grandparent invites all of the granddaughters for a tea party every year. Each is allowed to bring one friend. They play dress-up and gather for tea and cookies and some “high society” conversation.

Stories

Children love to hear stories about times when their parents were young … what they liked as children, how their parents met, how the grandparents met, what the grandparents life was like as a child. Children also like to hear stories about themselves and memories that grandparents have about them. A nice way to reminisce is to watch … and make … videos and photographs together.

One-On-One Time

All children like a time that is just their own special time, whether it is a night when that child is allowed to sleepover at the grandparents’ home or have a special outing or just a visit, it can be very special. Just listening to their conversation helps them to feel special and appreciated.
One woman told me that she grew up in a very neglectful home. What gave her self-confidence and the ability to believe in herself was her grandmother. She especially remembers a beauty kit that her grandmother bought for her when she was 10. The grandmother told the child that she was lovely inside and out … and this was to help her find ways to feel even better about how she looked.