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It has been said that Grandparents are taking the lead when it comes to teaching our children traditional values and standards of behaviour. Over half of those questioned said they learned good manners and values from their grandparents. Many considered their grandparents to be like second parents, and said that they considered the parents to be confidants.
As the structure and dynamics of families change, it seems that grandparents are now playing an even greater role in children's lives. Grandparents provide more and more childcare, support in financial or emotional ways and seem tp play an increasing role in the family life.
However, the role of grandparent changes as the children grow. They may be carer in the beginning, baby sitter as they are older and friend and teacher as they grow up. Here are a few ideas of the roles a grandparent can play.
Respected ancestor: grandparents are our link with the past. They are the head of the family and living proof of the family's history. They can talk about 'the old days', share stories of how life used to be and create a whole new world for little ones who love to listen to their grandparents (often embellished!) tales.
Friend: children feel happy to discuss things with grandparents who often appear more relaxed and permissive than parents. Children seem more likely to discuss things freely with grandparents and even talk about injustices that they feel with their parents.
Hero: being older, wiser and having lived for so many years, children can see grandparents as their heroes, full of stories and experiences of days gone by.
Teacher of practical skills: they can teach how to polish shoes, how to skip, how to knit, how to do the washing-up. Grandparents have so many skills and the time to teach them! They therefore become a role model for children. They can can be a mentor and guide children in a spiritual way.
Constant, reliable focus: in a world where divorce and separation is becoming more and more common, children look to grandparents as a constant in their life. They provide a nurturing and reliable place to go and feel wanted and cared for in an unconditional way.
Teachers of social skills: teaching children how to behave in public, how to look after themselves and how to communicate with adults.
Playmate: the magic that a grandparent can bring to a little child's life is priceless! The simplest of tasks become an adventure with a bit of inspiration and the fresh take on a situation that a grandparent can have. Children adore the excitement that grandparents can create and the games they have together.
In short, the role of grandparent has many layers, and indeed changes over time. Being a grandparent is what you make it and with a bit of time and thought it can be such a positive inspiration and a vital part of a child's life.
You don't need fancy toys or equipment in order to be a good grandparent, though. You don't need lots of brilliant ideas and complicated activities lined up for a visit. You just need some time, a little creative thinking and be willing to listen to what your grandchildren ask you for. The most important thing a grandparent can offer is a friendly ear and someone to listen!