Tips for Forming Strong Bonds between Grandparents and Grandchildren
How close ties benefit both grandparents and grandchildren
Relationships between grandparents and grandchildren can nurture and positively affect the well-being of each. If you're lucky enough to have grandparents who are willing and able to enjoy time with their grandchildren, whether in person or long-distance, here are some tips for getting the most out of the precious time they spend together.
Benefits for grandparents
For grandparents, or great-grandparents, according to an article in foreverfamilies.net, the relationship can offer:
- A new and intense relationship that both fulfills and challenges
- A sense of vitality through reconnecting with someone at a different stage of life
- A chance to participate in the child's growth and development without the level of responsibility that parents have.
Benefits for grandchildren
For children, this relationship can offer:
- A loving presence outside of one's nuclear family
- A solid sense of identity and a role model
- A trusted person to learn from, play with, and rely on.
In fact, research has shown that children with a strong connection to their grandparents do better in school and feel more comfortable with elders.
Some grandparents are naturals; others aren't
Not all grandparents feel the same about grandparenting. Some eagerly look forward to holding their grandchild and recreating that infant stage that they enjoyed with their own children. Other grandparents-to-be may feel reluctant, as if the idea of becoming a grandparent brings them face-to-face with their own aging, a subject they may not be ready to ponder. But, folks on the verge of becoming grandparents can look forward to a wide range of activities with their grandchildren, from crafts and hobbies to reading, sports, and taking part in family traditions.
Tom, a Berkeley, California, resident, had eagerly anticipated grandparenting. And when he turned 60, he finally became a grandparent, times three. Both his son and daughter had kids (with one set of twins). But, although he thought they were all adorable, he found the grandparenting experience, at first, to be a let down.
"There wasn't anything to do except hold them and look at them," he said. He hoped that when they got a bit older, they would be more fun to play with. On the other hand, Tom's wife Sandy bonded with the kids instantly, loved being with them whenever possible, and gladly provided childcare for the twins several times a week.
When the children were 18 months old however, Tom started to enjoy the grandchildren almost as much as Sandy did. Like other grandparents, they discovered that they responded to the stages of grandparenting differently.
Tips for forming strong bonds with your grandchildren
Once the grandkids are past the infant stage, here are some tips for strong bonding activities between grandparents and grandchildren that can have lasting impact.
- Have your grandchildren bring their favorite books, and then you can read to them. If you live far away, tape yourself reading a book to your grandchild, which he or she can listen to at bedtime, thus strengthening your bond despite the distance.
- Think of a simple recipe you like to make, and of ways your grandchild can help make it. Kids love to bake. For older kids, creating a family cookbook with recipes provided by grandparents is a great way to not only have fun but also to document family history. Special recipes often have great stories to accompany them.
- If you are the parent, have your child ask the grandparent questions about when the grandparent was little. What kind of games did she/he play when he was the grandchild's age? What kind of toys did he have? Who were his friends? What did he and his friends do together? What was his house or apartment like? What were his parents and siblings like? Specific questions about things the grandchild can relate to create a bond across the generations. And this is yet another way to document family history. If it's something you'd like to do as a project, think of having grandchildren interview their grandparents and write a story about them. You can create your own books containing the interviews, stories and hand-drawn pictures or photographs, which would make wonderful keepsakes.
- Create traditions out of playing certain games together when you are with your grandchild. This will give you each something to associate with your visits and help your grandchildren look forward to a routine with which they feel secure. Whether the games are traditional board games, card games or playtime activities, establishing an anticipated game or activity creates an expectation of fun for both grandparents and grandchildren. Picking age-appropriate games is really important -- if a 5-hour game of Monoploy isn't your thing (and not of interest for the grandkids), don't do it.
- Rent a video that everyone can enjoy, and it will provide a shared experience that both you and your grandchild can look back on together. Create a movie review journal for grandparents and kids to work on together. Watch a movie and write a short review (likes, dislikes, favorite part or character) and watch the list of titles grow.
- Look at photos together that show the grandparent at the same age as the grandchild. Then the grandparent can reminisce about what things were like then, and the grandchild can envision what the grandparent looked like as a child. Grandparents and grandkids can talk about interesting differences between "then" and "now."
- Use the computer together. Long-distance grandparents can communicate with grandkids by email as e-penpals. Parents can monitor this by having web savvy grandparents write to their grandkids using the parent's email address. Kids get to practice writing letters as a bonus!
- Go on a vacation together, with or without the kids' parents. More and more grandparents take their grandchildren on trips (both with and without the parents in tow). Whether you go on a cruise, to the beach, camping, or just do local sight-seeing, traveling and exploring give grandparents and grandkids time to talk and get to know each other.
- Do a family genealogy project together. Start by making a family tree and discussing it. If you are interested in an in-depth family history, you can search the web for software or other help with creating genealogies. Check out this fun link for ideas about how to get started: legacy project
Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. Previously she edited InterfaithFamily.com and JewishFamily.com. She has co-edited three books: The Mothers' Book: Shared Experiences (Houghton Mifflin), The Fathers' Book: Sha
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