Sunday, May 31, 2009

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild. ~Welsh Proverb

The special grandparent-child bond offers children (and grandparents!) a chance to learn, grow, and love in ways they never imagined, and offers many benefits for the whole family.
I grew up living near my grandparents. We had wonderful relationships right from birth. I spent lots of time with both my grandmothers. Sleepovers, shopping days, and learning skills from them (cooking, knitting, etc) were staples of my childhood. My maternal grandma passed away when I was 11, but my paternal grandma is still going strong at 96! (see photo above) She became a widow before I was born, so I am hopeful my relationship with her has been a support to her, too.
While this idyllic relationship may have been commonplace a generation ago, the picture in the 21st century is quite different. There are 55 million grandparents in the United States; it is the fastest growing segment of the population. But their role in today's family is not as clearly defined as it was in the past. Some feel the ideal grandparent is one who will spend time with the kids and offer unconditional love. Children get enough criticism from their parents; they need fun times and unconditional love from their grandparents.
(Halle w/ Grandpa Marv-who really wants her to walk!)
A Special Bond
"Historically, children were not raised by two people alone as we expect in today's culture," comments Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, president of the Foundation for Grandparenting. Children were raised with the help of the extended family.
"The grandparent/grandchild bond is very special and unique," Kornhaber adds. "It is biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. There are untold benefits to both the adults and children in these relationships. The love is unconditional. They're crazy about each other just because they breathe!"
(Halle with Grandma Nae-and Scrappy)

"This is a delightful time in our lives," says Bobbie Jenkins, who with her husband, has four grandchildren. "Our goal as grandparents is to love and nurture these children. I want to be a good listener to them, to confirm and build them up. I want to give them extra love and do things with them their parents can't."
One-to-one attention and time alone together allows children to psychologically incorporate the essence of their grandparents within themselves," says Dr. Kornhaber. "It should be a family priority to arrange time alone between grandparent and child. This kind of bonding should begin at birth."

According to Dr. Strom, conflicts arise, "When grandparents underestimate what they need to know, and [parents'] suggestions that they need to learn more may insult them. The truth is that this doesn't come naturally. Grandparents need to find out what the family goals are and then help to reinforce them."

With many couples delaying having children, more grandparents are older. Dr. Kornhaber explains, "It used to be that you were a grandparent for half your life. Then you were prone to suffer from grandparent anemia. Many of today's grandparents are older and more mature and that often makes them better." But with advanced age come more health problems, which may be difficult for children to understand. Dr. Kornhaber assures that it is important for children to be exposed to their grandparents' health problems. Close relationships with grandparents help children understand the continuity of life, says Dr. Strom. "Our society is becoming age segregated. Spending time with their grandparents helps children understand this segment of our population that someday they will be responsible for."
The bond between grandparent/grandchild is second only in emotion to the parent/child bond. Grandparents have an important role to play in their lives. The grandparent/grandchild connection should be meaningful for the whole family. It is so unique.
A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world. ~Charles and Ann Morse
(Halle with Grandpa Arden - one of our adopted grandparents!)

So, when feasible, help facilitate and encourage the creation of a positive, loving bond with grandparents for your child(ren). If you don't live close to family, "adopt" a grandparent! You're pretty good at adoption by now anyway.... who says it's limited to biology?

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