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Grandparenting in the 90's, by Ron Rose

    Today’s grandparents are younger, healthier, and more involved in the lives of their grandchildren than any generation before them. And a new style of grandparenting is emerging across the nation. The roles are varied and far removed from our cultural stereotypes—grandma is not sitting in a rocker knitting socks or crocheting doilies any more.

Substitute parent

    At a time when they least expect it, when they had plans for celebrating their new found freedom, an increasing number of grandparents nationwide are finding themselves being recycled as parents—to their children’s children. Grandparenting in one thing—parenting is another. They are reacting with anger, guilt, worry, and doubt. One recycled grandparent summed up her current dilemma this way, “I’d rather have them with me, than worry about them.”

Suggestion: These recycled parents need help. They need someone or some group with whom they can discuss this situation. If you don’t have such a group—start one.


    Listed below are five suggestions for really connecting with grandkids-for making the most of your relationship.

  1. Spend time one-on-one with each grandchild. The bond between grandparents and grandchildren depends on the time they spend alone and the undivided attention they give one another.
  2. Make more than small talk with the kids. Talk about school projects, upcoming events, mutual interests, etc.
  3. Know what’s happening in the kids’ life. One group of grandparents made a video tape telling all about their favorite things and stories about their childhood. Their grandkids made a similar video tape and they traded. Both groups learned a lot and grew closer together. Oh yes, they had a lot of fun, too.
  4. Keep the art of letter writing alive. Write your grandchild and encourage a written response. Supply the paper, the envelopes, and the stamps when necessary. Children love getting mail addressed to them and so do adults.
  5. Record yourself telling bedtime stories. Read the stories and send the book along, or you can tell stories about family history, or retell those memorable adventures of your childhood. You may be the only one who reads the whole story without skipping pages. And, the only one willing to read the same story over and over.

Suggestion: Reprint this list in your church bulletin or newsletter.

Volunteer Babysitter

Grandma is not sitting in a rocker knitting socks or crocheting doilies any more.
    Even grandfathers are finding renewed energy in being a babysitter for the kids. Being part of all the “firsts” is exciting. Grandfathers are saying things like, “I missed out on a lot of ‘firsts’: first steps, first word, first temper tantrum. A generation later, I have the opportunity to make that up, so to speak.”

Suggestion: Hold a Grandparents Workshop for new grandparents. Turn the time into a sharing of information, stories, and ideas.

Outsider by Divorce

    One of the tragic fallouts of divorce is the breakdown of the grandparent-grandchild relationship. For many, the written divorce signals an unwritten separation from the grandkids. This is especially true for the paternal grandparents. Many consider this situation one of the most tragic disappointments in life.

Suggestion: Set up a grandparent support group for those who have been forced out of grandparenthood.


    Grandparents are special—just ask the kids...

“They taught me how to walk on stilts.” Amanda, 10
“They call me on the phone and ask to talk to my dog.” Paul, 8
“They tell me secrets about my parents.” Gary, 10
“They let you do things mothers say you’re not old enough to do.” Rob, 8
“They can tell you what you ought to do without it sounding like a lecture.” Liz, 12

Suggestion: Produce a video where kids are seen and heard telling good stuff about their grandparents.


    All children need the special gifts that only grandparent-type people can give. These gifts are the treasures of mentors. There are at least four such grandparent gifts:

  1. Family Culture—“That’s the way our family does it!”
  2. Second Opinion—“Mom says...What do you think Grammy?”
  3. A Bigger Audience—“Are Grandpa and Grandma going to be at the program?”
  4. Helpful Information about Parents—“My mother did that?”

Suggestion: This mentor relationship is extremely important. If there are no “real-life” grandparents available, we must find a way to connect kids with “adoptive” grandparents. You don’t have to be old to grandparent, but you do have to be wise enough to invest your life in children.

    These empty-nester’s are indispensable in the lives of children, especially the grandchildren. We must do more to bring these generations together.


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-98, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
Article copyright © 1998, Ron Rose. Used by permission.
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