Grandparents can be puzzled about their role. Many want to be helpful to their grandchildren, but they are uncertain how to fit into the modern family. The following are some points to consider as you decide what kind of grandparent you want to be.
Accept that parents have the final responsibility for your grandchildren. Unless you care for the grandchildren day after day in the absence of their own mother or father, parents should have the final word on how their children are to be reared.
Establish your house rules. Children's misbehavior in the grandparent's home places more responsibility on grandparents. This is particularly true if the parents do not take action. House rules should be established and communicated to grandchildren and their parents.
Be willing to let each generation of parents make its own mistakes. Families differ in their ways of child rearing. It's hard to stand by and watch young parents proceed on a course destined to end in unhappiness. However, unless advice or assistance is requested, the grandparent must be willing to allow freedom--even the freedom to make mistakes. Grandparents should recall that they seldom listened to their own parents, and that they also made mistakes. The important elements in the family are love and mutual respect.
Do not compete for the loyalty and love of your grandchildren with their parents. It's dangerous and unkind to come between children and their parents. Do not turn grandchildren against their parents or try to recast them in your image. If you find your life centering too much on your grandchildren, develop interests and friendships outside the family.
Live your own life. Being a grandparent is not a full-time career. Continue to live a separate life of your own. Keep up with your old friends and make new ones. Pay attention to your appearance. Cultivate personal interests: reading, music, a course of study, crafts, club membership, volunteer service, a paying job, or community projects.
Keep up-to-date. Don't tell children how much better things were in the "old days." Make an effort to keep up with the ways life has changed or even improved. Try to understand the world as experienced by your children and grandchildren. Avoid being judgmental.
Earn respect by contributing to the well-being of the family. Showing favorites can create a problem in the family and between siblings. When you do something nice for one, do something nice for the others.
Babysit on your own terms. Some grandparents enjoy babysitting their grandchildren while others do not. Share your feeling with your children. Nothing good comes from letting oneself be used. Love can be shown in dozens of ways besides babysitting.
Ten Best Gifts for Grandchildren
The gift of self-worth. Children feel great when their grandparents give them positive recognition. When grandparents treasure their accomplishments, children feel special and worthwhile.
The gift of example. If grandchildren admire their grandparents, they may assume some of their values and copy what they do at a later time.
The gift of caring. Grandparents can show grandchildren they care by providing support when needed. Loving and caring grandparents can, for example, help a young child overcome the threat of a new baby in the home or provide a sense of stability and security during difficult times in the family. Grandparents may be able to provide what their grandchildren need because they may have a more objective view of the situation.
The gift of growing older gracefully. When children have pleasant experiences with older people who approach aging with excitement and good humor, they have a more positive view of growing older themselves.
The gift of knowledge. Grandparents may have special skills they can share with their grandchildren. Children like to learn from real "masters," and grandparents can provide that opportunity.
The gift of change. Grandparents are experts in change. They may have seen the first televisions, the first computers, and the first space flights. By sharing memories of these experiences, grandparents can help children understand that life is always full of change.
The gift of heritage. Whether they live many miles away from their grandchildren or just down the block, grandparents can do much to give children a feeling of family and a sense of security and belonging. Grandparents can enrich the lives of other family members by providing continuity between past, present, and future as they share memories about the days when their children were young.
The gift of hope. Because of their extensive life experience, grandparents can give young people a sense of hope for the future. By sharing their trials and tribulations, older people help children understand that they too can overcome difficulties.
The gift of happy memories. Warm moments with grandparents can be special memories--experiences that provide strength during difficult times. Kind words, loving gestures, and special times create fond memories that last a lifetime.
The gift of love and acceptance. It means a lot to know that whether you fail a test, break a glass, or lose a ball game, grandparents still love and accept you. The gift of "I love you, no matter what," whether spoken aloud, written in a letter, or shown by deeds, will be the most treasured and remembered present of all.
Prepared by Donna Gregerson, Extension agent, Benton County, Oregon State University. January 1996.
To make your own play-doh.
(NOTE: Feels just like the real thing, but without the peculiar PlayDoh smell. It's also non-toxic and thus safe for children.)
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
food coloring (supposedly you can get cool neon colors at Safeway)
Mix the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large stove-top pot. In a bowl, mix the water, oil, and food coloring, and then pour this mixture into the pot. Stir all ingredients thoroughly until there are no lumps. Heat on the stove on Medium, stirring constantly. When the mixture becomes lumpy and feels like stiff mashed potatoes, that is when you take it off the stove. Let it cool for a minute or so. Spoon it out of the pot and onto a counter space. Knead it until it feels like play dough! Use a rolling pin and cookie cutters for extra fun.