Grandparents make some of the best teachers. They’ve lived a full life and have uncovered a treasure trove of experiences — good and bad. I learned about art, camping, fishing, canoeing, cooking, crafts, scavenger hunts, forgiveness and hard work from my grandparents, not to mention values, morals and spirituality.
As I change seasons to becoming a grandparent myself, I realize more than ever the role my husband and I play by example. As Dr. Ken Canfield says in his book, The H.E.A.R.T. of Grandparenting, “We’re teaching them something all the time by how we act, our routines, how we handle emotions, how we treat people.”
Share Family History
Share family history by going through scrapbooks and photo albums. Tell kids about their ancestors and what they did for a living, and share stories about their parents when they were little. Visit a genealogy center to discover more about long-lost relatives. Let the grandkids know you’re human and how you learned from your mistakes. Be sure to let their parents in on the conversation before you share it, though. It may be a sensitive topic they’d like to avoid or to broach themselves first. Take the grandkids to church, mosque, synagogue or other with you and talk about why you believe what you do.
Do Things Together
Everyday household chores can be an adventure if you make a game of them. What are the ingredients in cooking and how does the chemistry of it all work? The science of cleaning and the art of design can also be fascinating. Go on adventures — a hike in the woods to experience nature or a photo-taking trip downtown to discover different types of architecture.
Sometimes the best learning experiences are those we learn together. Visit a museum or a science center and discover new things together. Help build their self-esteem by letting them teach you something they learn along the way.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has all kinds of jumping-off points to share your interests, whether they are playing a sport together or creating art. Share your love of science, pop culture, history, travel and cultures around the world.
Other Ways to Stay Connected
Some grandparents share their love of travel by taking photos on their trips and then sharing a slideshow or movie with the rest of the family. Start a collection for the grandkids of rocks or shells from your trips. Middle schoolers like putting keychains on their backpacks, so collect one from each destination. Take a stuffed animal with you on the trip and take pictures of them doing silly things the kids can relate to or might find funny. You will be amazed at what a great conversation starter that is. Most importantly, it helps with spending quality time together.
Don’t worry if you’re a long-distance grandparent. COVID was the impetus for all kinds of new technological communications allowing families to do Zoom calls, Facetime, Skype and others. You can still read stories to them over these platforms and show them pictures, and send them old-fashioned snail mail and packages containing surprises.
The important lessons you teach them now will stay with them long after you are gone. Most importantly, take time to listen to them: what’s going on in their life, what interests they have and what makes them happy. That is the best gift you can share.