Grandparents who are able to share time with their grandchildren can make a huge difference in their lives and in the lives of the parents! Whether the children are in public schools or homeschooled they can benefit from grandparents sharing their time and attention.
Having fun with a grandchild sounds too simple, but when Mom and Dad have their hands full earning a living and taking care of a family, a child can crave the simple fun of playing cards or board games, going to the movies together, trying to teach the dog tricks, or listening to you tell stories about your childhood.
Building a relationship means you are also able to be a model for a child. How does a grown-up behave when the game is lost? How does a grown-up treat the server at diner? Seeing you in every-day life provides examples of kind and respectful behavior—or how to make amends if you don’t quite get it right!
Having a relationship with a grandchild also means that you are the “someone else” a child can tell or count on if there is a challenge that she is at first unwilling to approach with a parent.
Grandparents can provide children with context for their own lives by sharing stories and photographs (best in small doses for small children) about family history. There is an empowering element in hearing first-hand about relatives who migrated long distances, started businesses, overcame challenges, had great faith, did interesting work, or watched over children in previous generations.
Attending your grandchild’s music recitals, plays, dance recitals, and baseball games also shows your commitment to the child. This can be especially important if parents are stretched thin and can’t always be there — even up into the teen years.
Below are a few ways to spend time with your grandchildren:
- Sharing Books
Sharing books with your grandchildren is another great way to spend time with them and help with their education. Reading aloud to children, visiting the library, talking about books, and listening to audiobooks are great ways to to have a big influence on their literacy skills.
- Sharing Special Skills
Many grandparents have special skills to share. These might be important domestic skills such as gardening, baking, or completing handyman jobs around the house. You might be able to share your love for a sport — golf, tennis, swimming, baseball, or soccer. Perhaps your skills are more those of a naturalist—identifying birds, animal tracks, edible plants, and constellations. Maybe you are accomplished in the arts—as a photographer, artist, dancer, actor, or musician. Your grandchildren will enjoy watching you work and appreciate a gentle introduction, with an emphasis on creativity and expression. Your profession or trade may be another source of special skills. Your grandchild might enjoy learning to use a calculator, learning carpentry skills, or learning to how to do body work on a car.
- Volunteering Together
Volunteering alongside your grandchild is a great way to instill compassion and community service. While animal shelters might not let a young child come groom or walk a dog alone, many will welcome a child who is accompanied by a responsible grandparent. You might also be able to shelve books at the library together, help stock a food pantry, or pick up litter from a road or stream. Think about causes you or your grandchild care about, and explore whether there are ways you could work together to contribute to the cause with your time or talents.
Service opportunities can also be informal. Help your grandchild bake cookies and visit a sick or shut-in neighbor together. Make greeting cards together and send them to people who need their spirits lifted. Invite your grandkids to help you rake leaves for someone who isn’t able.
Volunteering together does double duty—it means time spent together as well as modeling ways we can help others.
Spending time with your grandkids and sharing you interests will benefit both you and the grandkids. It will not only bring you closer together but it will keep your mind sharp and help them learn things that might never learn without you.