Grandparents are special! The one of mine I knew, anyway. Whenever I think about Grandma Rose (after whom I got my middle name) a glow of cherished love sweeps over me. Although she died in 1984, at the age of 88, her nurturing influence in my life lingers like a rare perfume. Perhaps that’s why I have such a soft spot in my heart for grandmothers like the one who stood in the checkout line ahead of me recently. From a brief moment or two of conversation I gleaned that she was buying birthday cards for her twin granddaughters. I recall the look on her face, a combination of sadness and frustration, as she said, “Wish I could really give them something of value.”
Sometimes grandparents lament that, on a fixed income, they really don't have much to give their grandchildren. Nothing could be further from the truth! Every grandparent can provide a legacy of inestimable value.
For example, a healthy level of self-worth is the foundation for successful living. Studies show that self-esteem levels in children are fairly high during grade school but rapidly decline by the time they finish high school. The decline in girls is even more pronounced than in boys. Even when parents understand and devote time to this important area of child development grandparents can enhance and facilitate the process. They can often make the difference between a child's just surviving or joyfully thriving.
Here are six suggestions:
- Affirm. Say things like, "You are a unique person and I am so happy you are part of this family." If the child violates personal or family boundaries, offer course-correction without devaluation. Critique the performance without criticizing the performer; reward effort even when the outcome is less than desirable. Help the child to understand the difference between, "Oops, I made a mistake," versus, "I am a mistake."
- Listen. Ask questions such as, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "Tell me how you feel about war?" "What do you think about God?" Then clamp your lips shut and listen. Listen in an open, encouraging, nonjudgmental way thus providing an opportunity for the child to verbalize hopes, fears, and feelings in a safe environment.
- Educate. Tell stories about what it was like when you were a child and when their parents were growing up. Stories are an excellent medium for transmitting health information, generational history, successes and failures, as well as a whole host of other meaningful experiences that can help the child to feel hopeful about the future and to avoid pitfalls. Explain that daily choices made throughout life influence not only our personal happiness and success but family outcomes as well.
- Nurture. Relate to the child in a way that makes him/her feel real (a reality as distinct as their fingerprints). Help the child to understand the difference between needs and wants and to prioritize each. When possible, help the child to realize some wants. They are those little extras that add joy and spontaneity to life and create pleasant memories.
- Empower. Help the child to believe he/she can make a difference in this world. When abuse is present in the environment, children usually grow up unempowered with deficient personal boundaries. Be willing to risk speaking out if you suspect physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or sexual abuse. Grandchildren are the fountain from which the next generation springs. Do your part to keep the water as pure as possible.
- Role-model. Researchers suggest that 85% of the message in a two-party communication is conveyed through nonverbal body language. In other words, do as I do is usually more convincing than do as I say. Exhibit a high-level-wellness lifestyle and show your grandchildren that growing older can be exciting, stimulating, and relatively free from dis-ease.
Can you really make a difference? More than you may know! You can pass on a gift to the next generation that no one else can give, can help to fill the child’s love cup and thereby, positively influence the future of your grandchild, of the culture, of the global village. (And if you have no biological grandchildren, “adopt” one!) You can do this without having to spend a penny (of hard, cold cash that is)! You can do this because you are providing quality time and your unique perspective. It’s a gift that only you can give; a gift that will continue through time. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Start now!
PS Why not make make green stuff part of this legacy. When I say green stuff, I mean EnerPrime™. It can help to strengthen the immune system and benefit the brain. When you feel healthier and think clearly you tend to feel better about yourself! Think of it as a brain-body-self-esteem booster rolled into one!
©Arlene R. Taylor PhD