The relationship between a grandchild and grandparent is a very special one. While grandparents act as an authority figure and provide unconditional love, they also get to spoil their grandkids in a way parents simply can't. But beyond that, grandparents also wield incredible influence. Here are ten things grandchildren can -- should -- learn from their grandparents.
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Kids may hate having to learn about history in schoolbooks and from old paintings and pictures, but they may find it more interesting to learn from someone who actually lived it. Children can find out what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression or World War II from grandparents who experienced life during that time. Personal stories are much easier to remember than lists of names and dates from books. As Kim Bishop of Charlotte, North Carolina says, "I loved hearing about how my grandparents grew up and how it was different from my childhood!"
A New Skill Set
When they were growing up, many senior citizens learned skills such as sewing, gardening, baking, farming or woodworking. These are great things to pass on to grandchildren, as they may not be commonly taught anymore, but are still very useful talents to possess.
And grandparents may have learned things during their lifetime that have proved helpful. Need cleaning advice? No one is better than a grandmother, who has probably cleaned quite a few floors in her time. Lauren Harrison of Houston, Texas, says her grandmother helped her learn how to upcycle things she might have thrown away in the past. "Because she grew up in the Great Depression, she learned to never waste anything -- and it's helped me save a lot of money and reduce trash," Harrison says.
Turn to grandparents for life lessons and other advice because they've often lived through the same or similar experience -- possibly more than once. "Knowing how my grandparents dealt with problems in their lives, and knowing that they got through everything just fine, makes me feel that I'll be okay, too," Bishop says.
Everyone has those old black and white pictures of unknown relatives, but grandma and grandpa may actually know where they were taken and who those mystery people are. Ask about your family tree -- who are their siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles? You'll know about tons of family members you didn't know existed. And maybe they can share some funny stories about your parents when they were young. "It's really interesting to learn about the people who came before me and made my family who we are today," says Katie Matza of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Teasing is a part of growing up, but when it comes from someone who loves you unconditionally, it's way more enjoyable. Learning jokes and pranks from your grandparents is a great way to bond with them and understand how to react if you're teased by your own peer group. Maybe your grandparents will even help you play a prank on your parents.
Many young children are used to their parents listening to everything they say, and they expect others will do the same. While this is often normal for young children, it's important for them to learn how to listen to others as well.
Angela Mao, of Boston, Massachusetts, says listening to grandparents' stories "helps grandchildren to learn how to listen and understand what others are telling them. This way, when they get to school, they'll be ready to listen to their teachers and learn from them."
Ever played bridge, canasta, pinochle or pitch? These card games -- staples to older generations -- are falling out of style with the advent of video games and smartphones. Let your grandparents teach you what they did for fun when they were your age and you might find you have a new favorite card game.
"My grandfather loves playing canasta," Harrison says, "and playing with him has made me realize that it's actually a lot of fun! I'm definitely going to teach my friends so I can keep playing when he's not visiting."
Having a sounding board who doesn't spend every day with you, like a parent or guardian does, can be invaluable when you're trying to navigate the teenage years. Amy Kelly of Libby, Montana says, "Adolescents rely heavily on each other during their formative years and [grandparents] can serve as an impartial source that can help them understand which friends they can trust and which they cannot."
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Grandparents have lived long enough to realize not to get upset over the little things; life is too short. Young grandchildren think everything is hyper-important, but can learn to adjust their priorities after discussing problems with their grandparents, who have a broader world view.
As Mao says, "My grandparents were great at giving advice when I was too worried over something small to understand what was really going on -- they definitely helped me out growing up!"
Don't let the art of letter writing fade. It's great practice for kids who are learning how to write. Set up some pen pal time with your grandparents and you can each send postcards, letters or souvenirs from your latest excursion. You'll both have a great time waiting for the next letter to come in the mail, and you'll grow closer in the process.
Steven Dowshen, of Wilmington, Delaware, recommends sending "grandparents a box of stationery and postcards and some stamps: Everyone will grow closer as they communicate and have a great time!"
Grandparents come with years' worth of wisdom and love to share with their grandkids. Take the time to get really get to know and learn from them while they're here. They'll cherish the time they get to spend with their grandkids and, in turn, the kids will gain insight and character they can pass onto their own children and grandchildren someday. There's no better way to pass on family traits than through time spent with one another.
Gillian Kruse is a freelance writer living in Houston, Texas. Her work can be found here.