By Vincent A. Wolfington
Query: Grandparents — what’s your role with grandchildren?
By the time people reach grandparent status, they have fixed ideas about parenting. They tend to look at the world around them through their individual lens of experience as parents and in watching the parenting by others. But, the grandchildren aren’t looking for another set of parents. They look at their grandparents through a different lens — their own. When grandparents are a safe harbor, they have significant influence on grandchildren.
“There is no one size that fits all in the orbit of parenting. That circumstance prevails with grand-parenting as well.”
Society measures people’s IQ and can assess athletic prowess through physical tests and visual observation, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive way to identify the perfect style for parenting. Part of the reason for this dilemma is that everybody is wired differently. There is no one size that fits all in the orbit of parenting. That circumstance prevails with grand-parenting as well.
However, research has identified some guidelines to help grandparents fulfill a role of natural influence. The guidelines build on the needs and wants of the grandchildren rather than those of the grandparents. When struggling to be a good grandparent, consider the following:
- Grandchildren are not interested in grandparents acting like a parent—they especially don’t want to be judged.
- Grandparents can exercise significant influence on grandchildren by being there for them when they want to be heard by someone they trust. The habit of being a good listener and being empathetic goes a long way to solidifying a relationship.
- Grandchildren respond positively to grandparents who they think accept them as they are and care about them.
- Grandchildren like to be recognized as being good at some things and the encouragement and support of grandparents for activities grandchildren like to do, and/or are good at doing, generates a positive impact.
- Grandchildren like to have fun and play games—they enjoy being with grandparents who are fun and likes to play games.
- Gather ideas and strategies from books, other grandparents and professionals. SpeakUp, Philadelphia, is a good place to start (SpeakUp.org).
- Get to know and understand your grandchildren as people—science can help.
- Be attentive to friends of grandchildren who don’t have the benefit of close family relationships—reach out and make them part of your extended family—share the sense of caring and love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Vincent A. Wolfington
Mr. Wolfington is number seven out of nine siblings, father of five children, and grandfather of fourteen. He has had a career in travel-related services, education and entrepreneurship on a global scale.