The typical family unit once encompassed parents and children, but recent data reveals that families increasingly reside in multi-generational households. In 2014, 60.6 million grandparents lived in a multigenerational home — about one in five in America. Today, grandparents live longer, more youthful lives.
Grandparents living in the household can greatly benefit the family dynamic. They can offer life advice and pick the kids up from school when parents have to work long hours. Parents remember the involvement of their grandparents in their own childhood, and it’s understandable that they want to pass on that experience with their folks to their little ones. Nurture the relationship between your child and their grandparents to make long-lasting memories and bonds.
Sharing in the Legacy
So focused on living life, many people become too busy to get to know the younger half of an older person’s lifetime. Grandparents are filled with generations of wisdom and unique life experiences that can enrich family life and knowledge even more.
A child loves hearing their own birth story, but what about the birth and childhood of their grandparents? Encourage the sharing of memories and favorite music. Let that southern grandma teach the little ones how to make buttermilk biscuits and flatfoot to a good bluegrass tune. Parents, don’t get left out — share your memories of your parents as a child to inspire activities and tri-generational fun.
Legacies are more than awards won and where you worked — they’re the little personality habits and lessons learned from over the years, passed down from family member to family member. Write down the most precious of memories to come back to later.
Quality Time Out
Parents often have their special rituals and treats with their children, but what about quality time with the grandparents? Instead of using grandparents as a free babysitting service, encourage your child and their grandparents to take turns planning fun adventures outdoors for quality time, such as to the park, a social dance lesson or to get ice cream.
Does the grandfather like to play chess? Let him teach your child, and they can go out and play in the park or participate in competitions. Let grandma open your child’s first savings account and show them the secret images hidden in a dollar bill, like the elusive owl and a number one. Quality time out can prove fun and educational.
Learning Skills, Responsibility and Respect
Real-world and practical skills often go ignored and unlearned by children who prefer screen time as a less boring activity. Many types of skills that your grandparents grew up with as a child are valuable and underutilized today, though passions for those skills slowly return. Examples include knowing how to bake your own bread and grow food in a garden.
What memories do you have of your parents? Did you used to help them snap green beans, can food or change the oil in the car? What do you wish you had time to teach your child that you don’t know or don’t have time for?
Children are naturally curious and want to help out. This personality trait presents a great opportunity for grandparents to pass on these valuable skills while teaching your child more about responsibility and respect.
What About Long-Distance Grandparents?
Long distances challenge the nurturing of a child-grandparent relationship. Children may only see their grandparents once or twice a year for the holidays, if that. Some only see their grandparents every few years, as several states or seas separate them.
Technology both connects and separates. FaceTime allows grandparents to interact in real time with their grandchildren, even watching a movie online together, but sometimes learning technology new to them presents additional obstacles. Another option is to encourage children to put down the screen and pick up a pencil to write a letter to grandma and grandpa. Those letters provide tactile memories your child will treasure forever.
Are your parents struggling to drive to the grocery store or pay bills? Are they experiencing health challenges? Why not invite them to live with you or close by in a personal care home? Nursing and personal care facilities can provide three meals a day, social activities, personal care assistance and access to immediate health care. Family may come and go, depending on visiting hours, and many facilities offer much freedom for seniors to continue their lifestyles as possible.
Grandparents provide an additional sense of comfort and safety to children, but they also offer a wealth of wisdom and learning opportunities. No matter if your parents are near or far, it’s important to encourage the nurturing of the child-grandparent bond.
Legacy is more than accomplishment — it’s in the sharing of memories and activities that last well beyond a single lifetime. Give that gift to grandparent and child, and you will each enrich your family relationships and personal lives.