You’ve heard it said, “Communication is key,” and that certainly applies to getting your parents plugged in as grandparents. Talking to your parents about your needs and how they might be able to help can open opportunities for them to engage as grandparents. Some don’t mind the occasional babysitting, whereas others might prefer to send you money to cover a child care provider. Let them. We have to be open and honest with our parents about our needs, our children’s lives, and how they can be grandparents.
- Be intentional. If your parents aren’t close by, consider these options for keeping and cultivating a relationship between them and your children:
- Skype/FaceTime or use other online video chat rooms on a regular basis. I use Facebook Live for school programs and award ceremonies, and afterward, my children run down the aisle to thank Grandma for “attending.”
- Ask grandparents to gift necessities. When my son needed hockey gear, I asked my mom if she would consider gifting him some. When he opened his kit, he knew the stick — most important and fun equipment — was from Grandma. She didn’t mind helping with the expense, and he regularly uses the item she bought.
- Send homework and report cards to grandparents. My dad is an academic, and he looks through my children’s grades with the same fine-tooth comb as he did mine. They sit and talk about the challenge areas, how to respond to conflict, study skills, and the praise from a grandparent can boost self-esteem for many years to come. Let them be a part of these regular details.
- Be Creative.
- The sweetest video I saw was that of a grandmother as matron of honor in her granddaughter’s wedding. Sometimes we have to step beyond normal expectations to find ways that honor our parents. In so doing, we teach our children to include them and trust them.
- As a child, I thought going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a week was camp. We never could afford much that other children had when I was growing up, but we longed all year for a week away from parents in our grandparent’s home. They served as camp director, craft teacher, and scout guide for a week every year, and it left the best memories.
- When there’s a disciplinary issue, it’s not unusual for me to FaceTime a grandparent for the discussion. It helps to provide the balance of justice and mercy when I’m upset, and grandparents can’t stand to see their babies in trouble. On the other hand, when I’m a bit lenient, a grandparent may have a more authoritarian perspective. This builds the idea that grandparents are for more than just buying things; they are a part of the family in every way. Along the same lines, when there is a value matter to discuss, it’s important to include grandparents so children realize that standards are not just parents making up weird rules but that families pass on legacies.
- Be a Listener.
- Not all grandparents are ready for the responsibility. When an unplanned pregnancy or a marital disruption creates a sudden need for the grandparent, it may take time for your parents to adapt. Don’t force the responsibility on them. Communicate with them. Invite them, but let them decide when and how to become involved.
- No two grandparents show love the same way. I never had a cookie-making grandma, but I learned from her how to sew, how to swim, and how to fix almost anything with duct tape. Knowing how your parents show love is important in providing the opportunity to show love to your children.
- Grandparents have specific needs, too. It’s difficult when one has arthritis to look after an infant and harder still to drive a teen around when your vision is waning. They have schedules and activities themselves, so knowing where your parents’ limit lies is crucial to including without overwhelming. As an adoptive mother, I had to give my parents time to learn about each child who came in desperate for a family but not really sure how to acclimate. Some older adopted children may not immediately bond, or may not bond at all. Respecting grandparents’ boundaries is just as important as including them.
By Yaki Cahoon