May 29, 2017

The 5 Skills Grandparents Need: Part Two


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. 


15 comments:

  1. All these years I have done all those things and it worked for a while. But now my grandson is nearing the age of emancipation and it is getting harder. I want him to go to college. But who will pay for it? Not two seniors on a fixed income. It is all too overwhelming as he doesn't seem to want to go to college. Everything is so different than when we were his age. We all left home and never looked back. I am worried that that won't happen here. How will he ever fledge? It makes my head hurt to think about as my husband and I age rapidly. His high school guidnace counselors have been no help at all......

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    1. That is a real problem. "Failure to Launch" was a movie a few years ago that described this problem: children who are ill equipped or unmotivated to begin life on their own. Paying for college would be impossible for virtually any grandparents who raised a grandchild.

      If he indicates college is not for him I wouldn't fight it. A lot of people go to college because that is expected of them, even though they will not benefit from this very expensive phase of life. However, some form of training after high school would be required to avoid a life of minimum wage struggles. Technical schools are an option; those with skills in this area can make a very nice living and feel satisfaction. I would venture to guess that the average plumber or electrician earns as much if not more than a college graduate with a degree in most Liberal Arts disciplines.

      When a grandchild reaches his or her late teens the die is pretty much cast. At that point you are relating to them in a very different way, I would imagine. These 5 skills may no longer apply. I'll write a follow up post in 7 or 8 years (!) when my oldest grandchild reaches this age. Until then, I am only guessing.

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    2. Yes, I have been looking at Pima Community College as an option for the building trades which he has expressed some interest in.....I guess he would have to live with us out there until he was on his feet. Not an exciting idea for us really.....We will have to see. I told him he needs to give us a plan. Of course he did not like that idea at all.....

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    3. It is not popular, but the military is an option. My children have each joined. One still serves. The other (now a dil and sil) both got out and have great skills. My husband joined, years ago, because his parents could not afford college. Many of the adults who are enlisted under my son's command are bright and talented people. There is also Americorps (although I have not met a successful graduate of that program).

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    4. Roberta, Just my opinion, after spending many years in higher ed, unless a person knows exactly why they want to go college, they probably should not. It is not a good backup plan at this point in time especially if debt is incurred - there may never be a return on that debt.

      If there is an interest in some type of trade - go with it. Interest is key!

      As Janette suggested, the military is an option. I served in the US. Air Force back in the late 70s, get this, as a mason. That would be the brick, cement, mortar,... mason. One guy actually made fun of me back then saying "what do you do, throw bricks at the enemy". Anyway, in hindsight I wish I would have stayed in for 20+ years, I did like it (I would have had a pension). Instead I ended up going to college on the GI Bill when I got out.

      Good luck!

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    5. Roberta...some great responses from readers. I hope these give you both ideas and encouragement

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    6. Thank you everyone for all your helpful ideas. I am bookmarking this and adding it to my "idea file".

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  2. Our two grandchildren are now 21 and 15 and as they have gotten older we have found a new and somewhat different type of relationship that seems even closer than when they were young. The teenage years can be so difficult for kids and we have tried to develop a relationship in which they know they can come to us and talk about their feelings and we will listen, not judge and simply be there for them. We have worked hard to gain their trust and can see them almost take a deep breath and relax as they talk with us about whatever might be on their minds. We don't always have answers but we do always listen and try to understand their viewpoint. We have learned that by developing this relationship they will sometimes call us and ask for our opinion about a decision when they are unsure of what action to take.

    You mentioned sharing something that brings you joy and my husband had done this with our 15 year old grandson with music. My husband is a collector and lover of classic rock and our grandson has become a lover of it as well and has even become a collector of classic rock on vinyl. It is so much fun to watch someone of this generation discover these joys that we shared at his age!

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    1. Thanks for input on how a relationship can change/develop as the grandkids age. I am not particularly looking froward to their mid teen years, but will be here for whatever support we can lend.

      I find it both humorous and gratifying that vinyl is making a bit of a comeback. My DJ years were spent playing 45s and LPs. By the time I became a consultant everything had moved to CDs, then to computer hard drives. Seeing a disc on a turntable is a tremendous flashback for me.

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  3. It is a flashback for sure Bob! We surprised our grandson with a nice (but used) Pioneer turntable, Yamaha tuner and speakers yesterday. He was truly blown away and kept telling us we could never know how much it meant to him. His older sister is just the opposite and all about i-phones, Spotify and streaming everything. It is fun to watch both sides of the music spectrum in one family! Our grandson now spends spare time visiting used record stores with his granddad looking for special "finds".

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    1. Going to used record stores, flea markets, and garage sales are all sources of old LPs. Though they are very expensive, vinyl can also be found on Ebay for the serious collector.

      There are days I wish I hadn't gotten rid of hundreds of old albums from my radio days.

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  4. When my grandson was a baby, I made up a song about all the people who love him. I would sing the song over and over substituting a new name every time. As he got older, I asked him to name all the people who love him. And when he was old enough, he began to sing along with me. He will get too old for this soon enough, but I hope not until he is old enough to remember this bedtime ritual.

    I love these five skills you named. As you said, there are surely others, but you have hit the foundation ones in these two posts. Some of them are focused on maintaining a good relationship with your kids, and others on building a good relationship with your grandkids. Both are so important.

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    1. Thanks, Galen. I'm happy you liked the lists, and I love the song idea.

      BTW, as we begin to make our travel plans for 2018 (after taking this year off) Portland looks to be part of the plan! Maybe you can sing that song to Betty and me.

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    2. I should have added that I don't sing well. Hopefully my grandson doesn't know the difference. How about if I take y'all out to dinner instead?! I'll be so happy to see you both! And we'll keep you out of the hospital this time!

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    3. Works for us, especially the part about the hospital. Once was enough, thank you.

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