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Why review a book written about interviewing your grandparents on a grandparenting blog? The Essential Questions is written as a guide to interviewing your grandparents and parents, but there’s a compelling reason for grandparents to read it as well: It can help us connect more deeply with our families. The Essential Questions is a gold mine of ideas for sharing your own stories.
Sharing family stories is one of the most important things grandparents can do. Children love to hear those stories, and the stories matter. 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.
Some grandparents are wonderful storytellers. 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.
For many of us though, we don’t think to include details in our stories that can help our grandchildren know us as individuals with rich personal histories.
The author of The Essential Questions, Elizabeth Lillian Keating, is an anthropologist. Her experience studying other cultures convinced her that the way an anthropologist learns about someone from another culture is just as valuable when applied to someone from another generation. She writes, “In researching this book, I’ve been surprised at the extent to which everyday aspects of culture have changed in just one or two generations. This rapid cultural change is what has given rise to the well-known phrase “generation gap.”
After her mother’s death, she realized how little she knew about her own mother as a person. Her goal in writing her book is to help other families avoid that regret. The questions she developed act as story prompts, and will allow you to unearth memories of times, places and people that your family might otherwise never hear about.
I developed a set of questions designed to get a person talking about the past in a way they never had before. The answers I got to the questions I asked opened whole new worlds to me and reflected each person’s unique place in history and the extraordinary things that had happened to them.
Looking for new grandparent advice? When you are thinking about what to expect when you’re going to be a grandparent, worries may not be at the top of your list. But most new grandparents have some fears about what to expect on the grandparent journey. Here’s some advice to help new grandparents get past their worries and experience all the joy in their new role.
Do you remember finding out you were going to be a grandparent?
For most of us, it is a thrilling moment. We start dreaming of having a little one to cuddle and love. We’re filled with the anticipation of watching this new little person learn and grow. We are bursting with visions of the adventures we’ll have and the memories we’ll make. We can’t wait for the chance to pass along family stories and the traditions we love.
Does any of that sound familiar? Most of us start daydreaming (and shopping!) long before the baby arrives.
For many of us, though, there are also worries. We really don’t know what to expect as a new grandparent. New grandparents wonder:
These are the things that keep grandparents-to-be awake at 3am. The things we talk about with our closest friends. The things we spend time searching for on the internet.
These are the things that we try to help you with at More Than Grand. We want all grandparents to be a source of joy for their families, so we provide the information you need to get past your worries and help you thrive in your new role. We show you what to expect as a new grandparent, and how to step into your new role confidently and intentionally.
What to expect when you're going to be a grandparent
1. Family dynamics will change
As excited as you are to becoming a grandparent, that’s not all that’s going on. Your adult child is becoming a parent, and your relationship with them will change. It can be hard to break the parent-child patterns that have worked for you for the last couple of decades, and this can lead to a lot of tension and misunderstandings.
Playing outdoors in the early years can help our grandchildren develop resilience, improve their motor skills, and even keep them healthy. Grandparents can provide these outdoor playing benefits by providing spaces and experiences to encourage outdoor play. Read on for ideas to help your grandkids connect with nature.
“Nature buffers the impact of life’s stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.” Wells & Evans 2003
Do you remember playing outside as a child? I remember spending 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 (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001).
But for too many children, time playing in nature is a rare treat.
So how can we, as grandparents, help?
It can be as easy as making your yard a safe place for exploration.
A child’s curiosity and imagination will guide them if given the chance. Provide your grandchildren 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 pick your flowers and gather your leaves. Let them go barefoot and let them get dirty. Get out and play with them!
While planting and nurturing a garden is one way to introduce nature, you don’t have to do anything that structured. A small spade and bucket and a pile of dirt can often provide more entertainment to a preschooler than a carefully tended vegetable bed. But if you want ideas for ways to engage your grands outdoors (and in!), Camp Granny by Sharon Lovejoy has lots of inspiration for you.
Don’t think your yard is very child-friendly? Check out Molly Dannenmaier’s book, A Child’s Garden, which provides dozens of ways to create natural play areas for children that fit into adult gardens. Find A Child's Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children by Molly Dannenmaier on Amazon.
No backyard? Don’t let that stop you from sharing the wonders and benefits of the natural world with your grandchildren.
Take them regularly to wild places. What counts as wild? Anywhere that lets them explore and experience nature, from pocket parks to nature preserves. Let them climb boulders and balance on logs, let them try to dam up a stream, let them feel the power of a wave. Need help finding somewhere near you? Here are some places to look:
Botanic gardens and arboretums often have spaces designed for children to play and explore. Even those that without children’s areas have plenty of places to roam and engage with nature. Find a public garden near you at at PublicGardens.org.
Nature preserves and wildlife refuges are wonderful places to search for lizards or wander through trees and over bridges. They range from redwood forests to coastal wetlands. Wildlife refuges can be found on the Fish & Wildlife Services website.
National Parks are home to over 17,000 miles of trails and habitat protection for endangered species, and provide bountiful opportunities to explore nature. Find a park here.
The shores of lakes, rivers and oceans are varied and fascinating to children. Sandy beaches provide the chance to dig, sift, and search for different kinds of shells and sea life. Rocky shorelines provide tidepools inhabited by sea stars and crabs. (Just make sure you’ve read our post about water safety!) The Travel Channel has some great guides to beaches on their website.
Aquariums allow kids to see what’s under the sea, and most have touch tanks that let kids see and feel sea life up close. To find an aquarium near you, search here.
Hiking trails can be the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Google “kid-friendly hiking trails near me” to find out what your neighborhood offers.
For children, spending time outdoors should be experienced with all their senses. You can help your grandchildren realize all the benefits of nature by giving them plenty of opportunities for unstructured play outdoors.
What’s your favorite place to take kids to interact with nature? Please share it in the comments!
Should you visit the hospital when your new grandbaby is born? If so, what do you need to know? Our list of the do’s and don’ts of hospital visits will help grandparents who want to go to the hospital when their new grandchild is born. You’ll want to read our tips before you plan a visit to your new grandchild and his or her parents.
You’ve been waiting for this moment for months (maybe even years!). Your first grandchild is due any day now and you cannot wait to meet her. But your excitement is dimmed when your daughter or son explains that they not only don’t want anyone else in the delivery room, they want some time to themselves before anyone else meets the baby.
If you’ve had visions of pacing the hallways while waiting for the baby to arrive, or planned to hold your daughter’s hand as she brings your grandchild into the world, this can feel like a major disappointment. But knowing that this is just the first of many times you will have to respect the parents’ wishes, you quickly shift gears and make plans to visit them in the hospital as soon as you can.
Not so fast! These days, it’s not a question of just popping into the hospital once you’ve gotten the news the baby is here. There are definite do’s and don’ts for grandparents and other visitors, and it’s important to follow them.
Here are some tips to help you navigate hospital etiquette and make the most of your first meeting with your new grandchild.
If you are looking for a book about love to send your grandchild for Valentine's Day, we think these five picture books and five board books are the best children's books about love.
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There are oodles and oodles of books about love, and as Valentine’s Day approaches, we set out to find our favorites. Our criteria? For the most part, it was the same as the criteria for our other book picks: well-written stories that engage children, pictures that captivate, and words that stand up to repeated readings. But for books about love, there was one more requirement: they had to be stories that didn’t tip into the trap of being overly-sentimental. This meant best-sellers like Love You Forever don’t appear on our list!
Instead, we include books that look at love through several different lenses. From a mother’s love for her child to a robot’s quest for the meaning of love, we found five delightful pictures books that will captivate your grandchildren as you read them over and over. And over!
The Best Picture Books About Love
Mama, Do You Love Me?
by Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
I was delighted to see this book is still in print. The beautiful illustrations of the mother and child in the Arctic accompany a story that my children loved to hear over and over. As the child tests a mother’s love, both the character and the children listening learn that a parent’s love is unconditional and everlasting. I don’t think I’ve ever read it without a bit of a catch in my throat while reciting the lyrical words.
Get your copy now.
Viking in Love
by Doug Cenko
This sweet, funny story stood up to the ultimate test: repeated requests for reading by a three-year-old. The words and story are simple, the pictures are engaging, and it has adorable kittens in a key role. The message about the power of love is straightforward enough for the youngest reader to grasp, without being overly sentimental or mushy.
Send a copy to your grands today.
Knowing what the risks to our grandchild’s safety are, and how to protect them, is the first step to preventing common childhood accidents and injuries. Read about what grandparents can do to keep their grandchildren safe from accidental injuries.
As grandparents, our instinct to keep our grandchildren safe is so strong! It can feel frightening to watch the news, knowing they are growing up in a world that often seems like a precarious place. Viruses, natural disasters, political unrest, global warming: There is so much we can’t protect them from.
But there is also so much we can do to keep them safe. Understanding the most common sources of accidental injury and taking steps to reduce those risks is something we can all do. Yet too many of us don’t take the time.
If that's to change, the first step is to know what the dangers are. Do you know what the most common causes of accidental injury in children under five are? Here they are (in alphabetical order, not by risk):
Most accidents can be prevented. Are you doing all you can to keep your grandkids safe while they are in your home or under your care? Remember that accidents happen in the blink of an eye, and most of us are not as prepared for the impulsiveness of small children as we once were.
Let’s change that and take these important steps to keep our grandchildren safe:
Supervise your grandchildren at all times
Never leave a young child alone, especially near water, stairs, flames, or sharp objects. If you have a pool, stream, or fishpond on your property, you need to be especially vigilant. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4, and one that can be prevented with some simple steps. All grandparents should read What Grandparents Need to Know: Water Safety, even if the only source of water at your home is the bathtub.
Is “boundaries” a bad word? Grandparents who don't respect boundaries may think so, or they may just need an open conversation around what healthy grandparent boundaries entail. If you are a grandparent struggling with boundaries set by your adult children, or a parent faced with grandparents who overstep boundaries, read on for some practical advice on healthy boundaries for grandparents.
“I’m so tired of hearing about boundaries. My son and his wife have all these rules about how and when we can see the baby and we constantly have to bow to their schedule. When I had children, we didn’t try to tell our parents what they could and couldn’t do. It seems like this generation of parents has no respect for their elders.” ~Message from a reader
Boundaries are important in every relationship, but are truly vital in the parent-grandparent partnership. We talk about them a lot here at More Than Grand, but when I got this comment from a clearly frustrated grandparent, I started wondering if using the word boundaries was alienating our readers. Try as I might, I cannot find another word that succinctly describes the limits and rules we set to protect relationships.
So I ran a poll on Instagram asking our followers how they felt about the word. Over 90% of the grandparents responded that “boundaries” was not a negative word. Of the 10% who said it rubbed them the wrong way, none of them answered my request for more about why it bothered them.
Is it really just a generational thing? The reader whose comment I shared places the blame on today’s parents, but every generation of parents does things differently. While parents may be more direct about using the word boundaries, I don’t think the desire for them is any different today than it has been in the past. I know I always felt my parents and my in-laws respected our decisions as parents, and most grandparents today seem to be open to working with the rules and guidelines parents find important.
Today's post is written by Sheila of Grandma Moves, an Instagram account that encourages everyone to keep moving throughout their lives.
So, you're a grandparent! There just isn't anything comparable, is there? Everyone always says how wonderful it is, but you can't appreciate it until you are anointed with the label yourself. Then you know. It's magic.
Some of us have special talents or hobbies we cannot wait to share with our grandchildren – maybe it's looking through a telescope at the stars, helping them plant their own garden patch right next to ours or going fishing...It's exciting to consider the many activities we will share with them going forward!
As the children grow older, so do we! Initially, when they are taking their first steps, it is simply holding out our hand for them to grab onto in order to steady their wobbly steps. Once they are confident and mobile it becomes a matter of following them around to make sure they are safe. We've managed so far, but what about when that grandchild is two or three and runs faster than we do? The child runs like the wind while we run winded trying to keep up! When our grandchild is over for a sleepover and falls asleep while curled up beside us, will we be able to pick them up and carry them to bed so as not to disturb their sleep?
Maybe you are chuckling and saying to yourself, “This isn't me. I have no problem”, and that's great! I only want to bring to your awareness that if you aren't proactively moving about daily this could become an issue.
As we age it's no secret that we lose muscle mass at a pretty good rate unless we are active and performing moves to improve our strength and build muscle. Why does this matter? Well, we want to experience that special moment of skipping across the lawn together while our grandchild is looking up at us giggling with the biggest sparkle of joy in his or her eyes. We also want to throw the baseball to an enthusiastic little player in training without pulling or tweaking something—and you know we can't wait to walk together on a boardwalk by the sea and join our grandchild when he or she runs off over the stony, uneven surface of the beach to look for shells. That's why it matters.