BY DENE LOWE
Grandparents can save the world—at least someone’s world. In interviewing grandparents and grandchildren for the book Grandparenting the Blended Family, I learned the important roles grandparents play when families go through coming-apart and coming-together transitions.
In current society, divorce, adoption, death, separation, remarriage, cohabitation, economics, illness, and a host of other reasons are responsible for more and more blended families. In the U.S., nearly half of marriages end in divorce, and nearly half of familial relationships begin with cohabitation, with informal separation being more prevalent than legal separation as new relationships form (CDC/NCHS). Navigating the maze of awkward or difficult adjustments that arise when families blend, it’s important that grandparents seize opportunities to step up.
Be present and show interest: One-on-one time can be invaluable in providing stability and self-esteem for those tender souls. Other adults may come and go, but you can actively choose to remain their one, reliable constant. If possible, make time for each grandchild. If your grandchild lives far away, using online, video chats can help you be “together” for big and little events.
Offer a nonjudgmental buffer zone: Amidst turmoil, grandparents can offer a safe place to land. It’s easier to keep your cool when you’re not fully responsible for monitoring disruptive behavior; and the way you tend to see your grandchildren in positive lights boosts their self-esteem.
Create and maintain family traditions: Family traditions offer a great way to demonstrate a sense of permanence and belonging. Family gatherings for holidays or birthdays mean someone has gone to the trouble of taking time out of busy schedules to make it happen Planning, traveling, and often preparing food shows how much you care. Remember that grandchildren are participators rather than organizers, but these events are important to them, and making sure these gatherings happen matters greatly.
These are just a few of the wise and insightful insights provided by families navigating transitions. Clearly, grandparents play a central role in blended families. They can literally save a blended family’s world. And if more blended families are saved, the world will follow.
“Dene Low is a grandparent. She thought she knew how to grandparent until she interviewed over thirty grandparents for this book, who shared their wisdom and experiences. Dene is a former journalist and is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, articles, and scholarly anthology chapters. She has a Ph.D. and is currently a university professor. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing with her family, she is touring the United States with her husband on their motorcycles.”