Whether your grandchildren live across the world or just next door, writing them notes and letters creates a place for them to share their lives with you, and for you to share yours with them. Even today, with our ability to see and hear our grandchildren instantly no matter where they are in the world, there is an important place for the written word.
If Your Grandchildren Live Far Away
Did you ever have a pen pal as a child? Do you remember the thrill of getting a letter in the mail? (Let’s face it, it’s still exciting to get real mail!) If your grandchildren live in another city, state or country, establishing a habit of regular postal correspondence can bring you closer. Even before they can write, there are ways to make a pen pal out of your grandchildren.
If Your Grandchildren Live Nearby
Just because your grandchildren live close enough for frequent visits doesn’t mean there isn’t room for written exchanges. In addition to the ideas above, there are some special ways to engage your grandkids.
Do you have other ideas for making written correspondence a part of your relationship with your grandchildren? Please share in the comments!
My mother-in-law has always captivated her grandchildren with the stories she tells of her childhood in a small mid-western town. Whether it’s about the time she burned the popcorn at her grandmother’s theater or the time her older siblings locked her in the basement, she is able to make another age and place come alive. But those stories do more than just entertain the kids. According to research, children and adolescents who know more of their family history have higher self-esteem, higher social and academic competence, and fewer behavior problems.
Researchers at Emory University developed the “Do You Know…?” scale to study how families pass along their history. Sometimes called “The 20 Questions”, the DYK Scale is comprised of questions that tap into different kinds of family stories. Questions like “Do you know what went on when you were being born?” and “Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?” are starting points for sharing family stories. It’s not passing on the knowledge that is most important, it’s the telling of the stories that connects the generations and provides the sense of self and belonging that promotes children's well-being.
You can find the full set of twenty questions here. The last one made me laugh ("Do you know a relative whose face 'froze' in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?"), but they all sparked ideas for stories to tell. Next time you talk to your grandkids, why not use these question to guide your conversation?
Duke, M.P., Lazarus, A., & Fivush, R. (2008). Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45, 268-272.
Do you want to be the grandfather wrestling with your grandkids, or the one who can’t lift them because of a bad back? Do you want to watch them play superheroes, or help them vanquish the bad guys? How many years of your grandchild’s life do you hope to be around for? If you haven’t been motivated to take good care of yourself, perhaps being a grandparent is the inspiration you need. Would you take up exercise to squeeze out a few extra years?
I’ve always hated exercise. That endorphin rush that you read about has never happened for me, and the only physical exertion I’ve ever actually enjoyed is kayaking in still waters. Which, since I don’t live near still waters, is not something I can pursue as a regular workout. I was lucky: my genetics meant that even without a vigorous exercise program, I stayed healthy and strong for the first fifty years of my life.
Eventually, however, my excellent genes began to age. I found myself having trouble lifting my suitcase into the overhead bin. I got stiff if I sat on the floor too long. And then my grandson arrived. I realized that to be part of his world I would need to be able to carry 30 pounds and spend long stretches sitting on the concrete with a fat piece of chalk in my hand. And I joined a gym for the first time in my life.
Pilates, yoga, weight training: these are all excellent ways for older adults to keep fit enough to play like a toddler. The average age that someone becomes a grandparent today is 50, hardly a senior citizen. No matter what your age, though, staying in shape is a powerful gift to your grandchildren. Getting down on the floor allows you to see the world from their vantage point and be a part of their world. Being able to get up again without difficulty is a bonus!