When I was growing up, the term ‘grandparents’ had a very different meaning than it does now. As a kid, I associated the term with Bingo, ugly coloured carpeting in a super clean house and old people. So awful, I know, but remember – I was just a kid. And, to be fair, my grandparents’ carpet was hideous.
Now that I’m a parent, the term ‘grandparent’ means freshly baked cookies, on-call babysitters, an extra set of hands and a playmate for my kids. It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘old’ anymore, but rather ‘experienced’. Still with a super clean house though.
The Joy of Grandparents
In today’s crazy 21st century, where we parents need all the help we can get, we often turn to our own parents to guide us and help us along the way. More than 40% of both infants (48.9%) and four to five-year olds (44.8%) had face-to-face contact with a grandparent at least weekly. This is definitely a step up from when we were growing up.
This extra contact benefits everyone. It’s great for us parents – free babysitters, woot woot! It’s awesome for kids too – the more playmates, role models and people who adore them, the better!
But studies also show that 21st century grandparents who are taking on this more involved role actually live longer too. Researchers found that caregiving grandparents had a 37 per cent chance of living longer when compared to non-caregiving grandparents and non-grandparents. It’s a win-for-all.
How to be the World’s Best Grandparent
Of course, being an active grandparent takes its toll. Many grandparents are still working themselves. Many are busy with other activities or live overseas or out-of-state. Many are more than happy to only see the grandkids a couple times a year. But if you are looking for ways to take on a more active role in your grandkids’ lives and really earn that “World’s Greatest Grandma” mug the kids are most likely going to buy you next Christmas, then here are a few tips to bring on board.
Okay, not smart. But tech-familiar. Even downloading a few fun apps on your iPad will delight the grandkids. And, if you happen to know a thing or two about Fortnite or Minecraft, well, you’re well ahead of the game.
Offer Help When You Can
The main form of help? Childcare. A sleepover at Nana and Papa’s is not only exciting for the kids, but much appreciated by parents too. Just imagine what we could do with 12-15 solid kid-free hours.
Respect Mum’s Rules
This most likely means NOT giving the grandkids chocolate at 6pm, just before you return them home. It also probably means limiting the excessive toy and gift giving and trying to stick to a similar routine in terms of naps, meals and appropriate behaviour.
Be There, but Not Too Much There
Avoid offering unsolicited advice or trying to take over on the parenting duties. Help, yes. Control, no.
Set up Skype Dates
If you live out of state, consider setting up playdates over Skype or Facetime. You can virtually
retend play. My daughter and her Nana would do this for hours and hours when she was little. We called it ‘Babyskyping’ and it was a literal lifesaver. Nana would entertain my daughter over Skype so I could cook dinner, fold the washing or even clean the whole house.
Consider Volunteering at School
Again, only if you have the time and as long as Mum and Dad are okay with it. But having Papa come to school and read to the class for an hour a week will mean the world to your grandchild!
Bake and Craft
Two things many modern parents often don’t have time for! If these hobbies are not your thing, share your passion for other hobbies that you enjoy with your grandkids. It’s always great for kids to learn how to do different things and they will love having Grandma or Papa as their teacher.
Cheer Them On
Offer to be the chauffeur to drive the kids to their activities and cheer them on at some of their weekend games/school carnivals.
The Types of Grandparents
In 1965, leading gerontologists conducted a study to identify five different patterns of grandparenting. It’s been 55 years since that study but the types of grandparents still apply today.
“Formal” Nan and Pops
Formal Nan and Pops take on the traditional “grandparent” role. They provide background support, come to special occasions and events, take grand-children on occasional outings and play a role in the children’s lives, but are not overly involved.
“Fun” G-Ma and Poppy
Fun is number one with G-Ma and Poppy. They bring out all the stops to entertain the grandkids, even if it means not following the rules Mum and Dad have put into place.
“Surrogate” Nana and Papa
Considered “Mummy and Daddy #2”, surrogate grandparents take over many of the parenting duties, often meaning the relationship is more akin to parent and child.
“Wise Old” Grandpappy and Grandmammy
At the top of the family tree is Grandpappy and Grandmammy who dispense advice, have particular ideas of how and what needs to be done and are not afraid to share these ideas with you. Wise old Grandpappy and Grandmammy may be a little on the old school side and aren’t afraid to remind you that when they were growing up, they had to walk 10km to school, barefoot and uphill both ways.
“Christmas Card” Grandma and Grandpa
Also known as the “distant” grandparents, they tend to play a minor role in their grandkids’ lives, perhaps sending a card on birthdays and meeting up on Christmas, possibly due to geographical location or simply a different lifestyle.
In many instances, modern day grandparents are a combination of the best qualities of all or some of the above
Don’t forget Sunday, 25 October is National Grandparents Day!
It’s all about celebrating the role grandparents and older people play in our society and in our lives. It’s not just about now, but what they have done in the past too. So, connect across generations and set aside the 25th to spend the day with your older loved ones and let them know how important they are to you.