SIMPLYkc Magazine: PARENTING
BY STACEY HATTON
One of my fondest childhood memories involves my grandfather taking me by the hand on Thanksgiving and sneaking us into the kitchen when no one was looking. Grabbing a handful of black olives, we would place them on our fingertips, laugh and gobble them off our fingers before anyone would catch us. It was our secret, every year! There is no other relationship that compares to the one of a grandparent and grandchild. The connection is beneficial for everyone – not just the grandchildren and grandparents, but the parents too!
Why is it Important?
“I was very close to my grandparents, so creating bonds for my kids is extremely important to me,” says Overland Park mother of three, Trisha Farnsworth. “We institute bonds with both sets of grandparents – one lives in town and the other a few hours away. We get together often and have created many traditions . . . some just in the past few years. We have holiday traditions: like a hayride and bonfire with my parents in the fall, and birthday brunches with my husband’s parents.” Some grandparents are excellent influences on their grandkids and are able to teach them about their family’s history and culture that may get left out in the daily rush. The more time grandchildren spend with grandparents, the more opportunities they have to learn from them. “Overnight trips to Grandma’s house, for example, may be less traumatic than sleepovers with peers and can help kids develop independence,” says Nemours Foundation. This is a time for parents to get some much needed “couple time,” and a chance for the grandkids to spend quality hours creating traditions with their grandparents. This can bolster a child’s self-esteem and provide them with confidence and security as well as make grandparents feel appreciated and needed.
Establishing a Connection
Despite today’s busy family schedules, it can be difficult to dedicate regular time with grandparents. Joan Brown, an Overland Park non-stereotypical matriarch, shares how her extended family routinely makes time for each other. “We are blessed with six grandchildren – only three of which live in the Kansas City area. But (my husband) and I don’t fit the typical grandparent profile…we both work full-time and often spend a considerable amount of overtime at our jobs,” says Mrs. Brown. “Early on in our marriage – the second for both of us – we decided to continue an Italian tradition that started with my mother’s family years ago…Sunday dinner…At the beginning of our marriage, it was a vehicle to bring our two families together…We now use our Sunday dinners to connect with our grandchildren,” she says.
Long Distance Bonding
Nothing can compare with actual time spent together, but it can’t always happen. Time, distance, health issues can play parts in separating children from their grandparents; but an effort to schedule this shared time is essential for both generations. Have your kids call their grandparents when exciting things happen at school, or they have an event coming up. Video tape it and send it to them in an email. This way they won’t feel as if they are missing out on everything. Webcameras are a fun way for kids to interact with their grandparents. Even developing a pen pal relationship with grandparents is great and excellent for kids writing skills!
Safe Environment Away From Home
For most grandparents it has been quite awhile since they raised children in their home, and safety regulations have changed substantially since then. Even though their idea may be, “Well, I raised you, and you turned out okay,” might be fine for them; you as the parent need to find an effective way to get your point across. A walk-through of “Grandma’s” house is helpful to show them hazards such as: medications, shampoos/soaps, and cleaning products which probably are not locked up. Assist grandparents to identify small choking hazards in their house as well. If you do this before the kids arrive, then they can just enjoy their time with your munchkins. One of the beauties of hereditary is that gene pool traits pop up randomly and sporadically. So the chance of a grandchild and grandparent finding something in common is . . . well, grand! Try doing crafts, painting a landscape, cooking a favorite recipe, learning to knit, tie a Windsor knot or change a tire! And remember, communication is key to any successful relationship!