Skip to content

Bridging the Generation Gap. Part 2

by Daniel on June 24th, 2011

Grandparents are just too important. “Parents should realize that they are the linchpin of a grandparent’s relationship with the grandchild,” Kornhaber said, and should facilitate it. He calls the grandparent/grandchild relationship a “spiritual bond.” Studies have shown, he notes, that even grown children consider it to have been essential in their lives. “Kids who are close to grandparents are different from those who aren’t,” he explained, “because they feel that unconditional love. Mom and Dad can be tired, concerned about work, finances and the like. But the child looks into their grandparent’s eyes and sees ecstatic adoration. Basically, if you breathe, you’re OK. That kind of love is incredibly empowering.”

Besides the pride and joy of it all, the birth of a first grandchild is a momentous event in the life of a family. It changes all of its the members, affecting forever both their sense of themselves and their priorities. It also shifts the dynamics between members. That can afford an opportunity for individual growth and can lead to a deeper understanding between the generations. Handled sensitively, this transforming occasion can heal past grievances and revive parent/child relations that have deteriorated. It may give a grown child a chance to draw on her parents’ experience (now called wisdom) and to develop a new appreciation both of her own upbringing and a parent’s, any parent’s, fallibility. For a grandparent, this is the chance to love again without restraint or the need to discipline. It’s also a chance to transmit a legacy, to share the family heritage and to repair previous damage. Everyone will benefit.

Evolving Relationships
Like other relationships, the grandparent relationship will evolve. As children grow from babies to toddlers to young people with full lives of their own, grandparents will need to focus more and more on establishing a rich one-on-one relationship with the grandchild — no matter where they live. This is not something to be passive about. Until the grandchild is able to take partial responsibility for maintaining the relationship, it is up to the adult to keep it vibrant and relevant.

That has not been a problem for Evelyn Siegel, whose grandchildren — ranging from age 7 to 21 — all live nearby. Spending time with them keeps her and her husband young, Siegel says. She makes sure to go to their soccer games and dance recitals. Her grandchildren visit her individually and in groups, and for extended periods during the summer. They help in her art gallery. She plans brunches and special excursions they go on together. And when they have a birthday, she sets aside a day to take them shopping and enjoy the day. “We have a good time,” Siegel said.

Today, grandparenting comes in many different styles. As Westheimer puts it, “The grandparent role is open, dynamic and flexible. ? We can each of us reinvent grandparenting in our own image for our own family.” She cites in her book a classic 1960s study by Berniece Neugarten and Karol Weinstein of five basic styles: fun-seeking, formal, distant, reservoirs of family wisdom and surrogate parents. But that was then. With baby boomers entering their 50s in droves, more and more of them are becoming grandparents and redefining that role.

Aging looks and feels different these days. Grandparents are no longer depicted knitting in rocking chairs, baking cookies and telling stories about the way it used to be — although these are all perfectly fine prototypical grandparent activities. As a result, children have different expectations, too. Consider the children’s classic “Pat the Bunny” written by Dorothy Kunhardt in 1940. Her daughter Edith has now added new books to the series in the spirit of the original — but with a contemporary spin. For example, in “Pat the Puppy,” Sarah and Tom visit their trim and active grandparents: They all push a wheelbarrow together, learn to lace and unlace Grandma’s running shoes and to taste Grandpa’s yummy brownies.

But the differences go beyond jogging. The energy, presence and support of grandparents are vital in many others ways, as the American family undergoes various stresses. With so many families in which both parents work, for example, children spend far less time with their parents than they did in the past. Grandparents can fill the void, and children will thrive on the extra attention.

So don’t worry too much about an overzealous grandparent. The grandparent relationship is a wonderful gift on all sides — from the parent to the grandparent, and from the grandparent to the parent and grandchild. Relish it wherever you are in the family constellation.

Thank to help from our online store, you quickly, easily see reliable, convenient way to make a worldwide call. Prepaid call cards – they are godsend for those who go on important businesstravels.

From → Relationships

Comments are closed.