When you first heard what your future grandchild was to be named, were you instantly alarmed?
"Muriel is too old-fashioned!" "Juniper is too modern!"
"Slade is just weird!" "Feebee? Spell it right!"
"I knew a dreadful girl named Lindsay!"
"George is such an ugly name!"
Of course you have opinions—names are powerful and, usually, permanent. One in five grandparents admits to hating a grandchild’s name. Actually hating it! What do you do if you are one of them?
First, what you don’t do: tell your grandchild’s parents that you hate it. You don’t need to fake enthusiasm, but you do not want to be among the 2% of grandparents who have a permanent falling-out over something that is, ultimately, none of your business. Grandparenting is one long lesson in when to bite your tongue, and it starts here.
If you can do so without revealing how much you dislike their choice, ask why the name is meaningful to them. Their reasons may help you see the name in a different light. Perhaps George was a beloved uncle, or Lindsay a best friend who died young.
Next, realize that the name will likely grow on you as soon as you have a delightful baby to attach it to--more than 75% of the grandparents who initially disliked their grandchild's name have learned to accept it over time. If you really can’t stand it, try out a nickname that will be your special name for the child. Two things to be careful of: if the parents object, respect their wishes. And make sure it’s something that you can use when they are a teenager!
Did you hate your grandchild's name when you first heard it? Please share your experience in the comments!
When Lesley Stahl became a grandmother, she was stunned by the way it affected her emotionally. Ever the reporter, she set about to find out whether her experience was the norm. Becoming Grandma is the engaging, informative result of her research. As she shares stories of her transformation into Grandma, she explores the ways grandparents can play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Stahl offers insight into the complexities of a being a grandparent in today’s world, where a child may have four sets of grandparents and parents are inundated with parenting advice from the internet. This well-researched book is well worth reading--buy a copy and lend it out to your grandmother friends.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
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Do you remember playing outside as a child? I spent hours upon hours playing in the woods: making elaborate houses with fallen branches, shaping dishes out of the clay we found in the soil, decorating with flowers and leaves. I remember climbing trees so high I got dizzy and had to be coached back down. There were games of hide and seek in the tall grass of an empty lot across the street, and in the winter, elaborate snow forts and all-neighborhood snowball fights.
Children need nature. And not just seeing it, but experiencing it: the feel of grass under their feet, the sound of the birds in the woods, the smell of wet dirt. Studies have shown that children who play regularly in natural environments exhibit more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often*. But for too many children, time playing in nature is a rare treat.
So how can we, as grandparents, help?
Make your yard a place for exploration.
Provide them with natural elements for creative play: sticks and stones and leaves and dirt and water. Keep a place for them to dig for worms. Let them make forts in your bushes and move the rocks in your border. Let them climb your trees and hang from the branches. Let them lie on the grass and watch the bugs. Let them go barefoot and let them get dirty.
It can be that easy. But if you want more ideas for making your backyard into a child-friendly play space, I highly recommend Molly Dannenmaier’s book, A Child’s Garden. She provides dozens of ideas and inspiration for creating natural play areas that fit into adult gardens.
For more about the crucial role nature plays for all of us, read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.
No backyard? No problem. I’ll share ideas for connecting children to nature in my next post.
*Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001
This post contains affiliate links to products I have personally chosen to share. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Every penny helps support this site and allows me to visit my grandchildren, so thank you for your support!
The world feels like a much scarier place than it did just a week ago. The numbers of people getting sick with Covid-19 are increasing exponentially. Communities are pulling together while we all try to stay away from one another. Family disappointments are piling up: graduations, trips to see new babies, weddings—all cancelled or postponed. Just when we need each other, we are told to stay apart. Experts tell us it will get worse before it gets better.
Grandparents, it is at times like this that you are needed most.
What every family needs right now is someone to turn to who can help make it feel safer. Who better than you? No matter how shaky you feel, here are some ways for you to be a source of strength and wisdom as your family battles the stress they are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Did you serve in a war? Live through the polio era? Spend time unemployed and broke? Watch a loved one struggle with illness or addiction?
Most of us have faced hard times and come through stronger. Share your stories with your family, especially if you never have before. Stories are the foundation of strong families, and now is the perfect time to strengthen those foundations.
Earlier this week, my newest granddaughter arrived and surprised us all. Not only was she two weeks early, but my son and his wife hadn’t found out this baby’s gender, and all bets were on them having a boy. It was a disorienting moment when I got the news—I had a moment of wondering who was sending me a baby picture. But as soon as the truth of her being sunk in, I immediately fell in love. Then I started to worry a little.
We had made careful plans to make sure that this growing family had help. With a not-yet two-year-old and a not-yet four-year-old, a new baby means a lot of little mouths to feed and hands to keep busy. I went to visit a couple weeks ago and filled the freezer, and my daughter-in-law’s parents were planning to come a few days before her due date to help on the scene. I have a trip booked in a month, which was intended to correspond with her parents leaving. Now there is a week that they’ll be on their own before her parents can get there, and there will be a bigger gap before I arrive for my turn as extra adult.
I’ve got enough airline miles to make an extra trip or change my flight. But I can’t go earlier for an important reason: I have three other adult children. Since they are all on academic calendars this year, they are each planning a spring break visit home in the next month. I don’t ever want my children to think they come second to my grandchildren. I know my son and his wife will figure it out together, and no one will actually die of sleep deprivation.
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!
A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being A Grandparent Today
Are you looking for help understanding the new dimensions to your family that being a grandparent creates? Whether you have a strong and wonderful relationship with your child and their spouse or not, Unconditional Love provides solid advice for forming the bond you wish to form with your grandchildren. Isay's acknowledgement of the conflicts, problems and politics of family life provides a framework for creating a healthy relationship with your grandchildren and their parents. Through interviews, research and her own experience, Isay provides plenty of food for thought for anyone who wants to make the most of being a grandparent. Well worth buying this one, as it will be a useful reference in the years to come.
This site contains affiliate links to products I have personally chosen to share. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Every penny helps support this site and allows me to visit my grandchildren, so thank you for your support!
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.