A week or so ago, 5 Skills Every Grandparent Needs listed two of the most important qualities you need if you are blessed with grandkids. I made the point that how we raised our own kids is not always the best model for dealing with our child's child. A different skill set is often needed.
Here is part two of that post, with the three additional attributes I suggest you have at your disposal. As always, I know this list isn't complete. If you are raising a grandchild, the five skills noted in this and the earlier post need to be expanded one hundred fold. You are a parent who also must bring some of the unconditional love of a grandparent to the child's life. Or, you may live hundreds or thousands of miles away, making each visit that much more precious.
I know from my own experiences that these five traits are vital. As always. you are encouraged to add something you have found to be very important in the life of a child.
1) Create Memories. In a world of video games, smartphones, texting, and TV streaming, grandparents have to take the lead in breaking through the electronic chatter to create powerful, lasting memories. I believe a child hungers for authentic experiences that involve sight, smell, and touch, things sometimes lacking in their day-to-day life.
Something as simple as time spent in a park, pushing him on a swing, helping her down a slide, shooting baskets while spelling H-O-R-S-E, sharing a simple lunch, describing cloud formations as animals and people, all build a child's imagination. Looking at old photographs together provides a sense of how a family is connected to its past. Vividly demonstrating your willingness to invest time and attention demonstrates love and caring.
2) Listen and provide emotional support. Raising children is a constant process of events: showing love, corrections, teaching, discipline, denying, allowing, and applying limits. Being a parent means not always pleasing your child in the moment. The choices you make are essential to his or her well being, though that doesn't make them easy.
A grandparent can play a different role. As the Part One blog post noted, a grandparent cannot undermine a parent's authority. If you disagree with something, it is never appropriate to bring it up with the child present. But, that leaves you free to be the attentive listener that we all crave. You are able to focus all of your attention on the questions or concerns your grandchild expresses. You provide a non-judgemental environment that allows him or her to get an adult's attention and reaction.
3) Expose the grandchild to something that brings you joy. You have found things that make you happy. You have a hobby, an interest, a passion...a thing that excites and pleases you. It could be photography, cooking, woodworking, knitting, card games, gardening....it doesn't really matter what it is.
What you can do is show your grandchild something that he or she has likely not experienced yet: the sense of real joy that comes from doing something you like. The goal is not to convince him that your passion should be his. She might not particularly like what you show her. What is important is your display of involvement with something. You have the ability to demonstrate what commitment looks like. You are showing the power of finding satisfaction in an activity that you engage in simply for the fun of doing so.
Being the granddad to three inquisitive, precious young lives has been continuing source of satisfaction. I will be eternally grateful that I live so close and can be so much a part of their lives.