Sunday night found me exhausted and ready for bed an hour earlier than normal, but it was the good kind of exhaustion! Once again, my grandchildren wore me out, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. After traveling for two weeks, my goal for the week at home was to catch up on grandchildren time and I made sure I met my goal. The time I get to spend with them is priceless and I know I need to take advantage of their time now because as they grow older, they will be too busy with friends and other interests.
I have 5 grandchildren between the ages of one month and six years of age. They know this grandma always has projects planned and exciting trips scheduled when they visit. The bond we have is important to me and I strive to show them how important they are to me. I also want them to grow up with a sense of self-worth and positive self-esteem because there is power in identity. I want them to see themselves as having power to make changes in the world, to improve their community, and it all starts at the family level.
So how do I help my young grandchildren learn about changing the world? I play a significant role in shaping my grandchildren’s future by role modeling and interacting with them and others in a positive way. I act as the historian of the family, as well as the community. The projects I plan and the trips we take are all geared toward this goal. Of course it is all fun and games, but there is also education happening at the same time. Here are some ideas for you on improving your relationship with your grandchildren and growing their identity:
Engaging in hobbies and activities that you love or your grandchild loves can be a great way to spend time together and learn about each other. Sometimes, activities that you might not expect your grandchildren to be interested in, like knitting or gardening, might turn out to provide an important point of connection for you. Similarly, if you take an interest in something they are passionate about, like trading cards or the Harry Potter books, they get to share their special area of knowledge and may open up in new ways. My 6 year old grandson is learning Spanish in school and I have always wanted to learn, so he is teaching me as he learns.
Children love the outdoors, and trips to the park or the beach can be a great jumping-off point for some wonderful adventures and happy memories. Nature walks and day hikes can provide lots of interesting things to talk about, and water activities can be especially fun. Throwing stones into the water or watching the current play with sticks are simple activities that can be fascinating to children. You can start these activities when kids are toddlers, and expand the games as they get older.
Whatever activity you do with your grandchildren, strive to make it a positive exchange. Allow yourself to slow down and become really absorbed in the activity. Moving at a slower pace than usual can give children a sense that time can be 'stretched'—that you don't need to hurry through activities. Don’t worry if you don’t see yourself as a teacher because the education is happening regardless.
Whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living thousands of miles away, you can find new ways to strengthen family ties and provide your grandchildren with joyful memories and valuable life lessons. I treasure the time I spend with my grandchildren and I hope you do too.