By Sara Dimerman
Like Mother’s and Father’s Day, National Grandparents Day is an opportunity to give grandparents an extra hug and tell them how much they are appreciated.
Unfortunately, my grandparents are no longer with me, but my memories of them will live on for as long and I do.
For those of you who are fortunate enough to have grandparents still living, and especially for your children who are more likely than you even, here are some reasons to celebrate grandparents.
Grandchildren love being ‘spoiled’ by their grandparents and it’s a grandparent’s privilege to do so. I remember my grandparents sneaking me an extra chocolate behind my parents back. I’m not saying that this is an ideal dynamic, but I think there’s a silent code between children and their grandparents which says that just because they may be willing to give more, that it’s only them that will occasionally be the exception to the rule.
Grandparents often take on the role of second parents and some even become the primary caregivers.
Many grandparents pick their grandchildren up from school while mom or dad are at work, come to their grandchildren’s home in the morning to help get the kids ready for school or watch younger children on certain days of the week. Some grandparents are retired or semi retired and therefore have more time to devote to their grandchildren while their parents are working.
Many grandparents, my parents included, take on the role of full-time caregivers when their adult children choose not or do not take on the responsibility of parenting their own. My nephew was only months old when my parents adopted him and so my mom and I were in the unique position of raising my daughter and her grandchild at the same time.
A new TVO documentary, created by award winning filmmaker Karen Shopsowitz, (will air on Oct. 16th) explores the role of grandparents raising their grandchildren. In these situations, grandparents do not take on the traditional grandparenting role and should be celebrated for many reasons including the opportunity they have given their grandchildren to be raised in a secure, potentially healthier environment.
Grandparents enrich their grandchildren’s lives with stories that create deeper roots.
When grandchildren have the opportunity to create family trees alongside their grandparents or even audio or video record conversations of what life was like when they were born and growing up, grandchildren have a better appreciation of the history that runs through their veins.
Children who are adopted can benefit by knowing more about their grandparent’s experiences because this too allows them a deeper understanding of their adoptive parents. Sitting with grandparents and listening to their stories offers an interesting history lesson to be shared with future generations.
Even though grandchildren may think that grandparent’s views are outdated, they can often benefit from their wisdom founded on many years of living. In addition, grandchildren can be wonderful teachers to their grandparents – especially when it comes to things that are foreign to them, like programming their cell phones or using a computer.
And by the way, consider using the computer as a means of communication (Skype, for example) to stay in touch if physical distance divides grandchildren from their grandparents.
I know that not everyone is fortunate to have grandparents still living or even to have grandparents who are physically or emotionally available.
Consider then the benefit of connecting children with older adults – friends of the family or seniors in a retirement home, for example. These adults can potentially take on a grandparenting role by offering extra attention and nurturing as well as lifetime of rich and valuable experiences to children.
Sara Dimerman is a psychologist, author and mom to two daughters. For more advice, connect at www.helpmesara.com or on Twitter @helpmesara.