Christian Home and School 1999
by Patricia Fry
A Critical Link to Your Children's Future
I had the distinction of being born into a family of eleven grandparents
(seven of them greats and none of them steps). All but one set of grandparents
lived in the same county and most of them in the same town. Grandma and
Granddad Calvert's home was a mere block and a half away. This was a place of
refuge for my siblings and me while we were growing up - a place where we were
always welcome, where unconditional love and acceptance abounded and where more
character-molding probably took place than we could possibly know.
Would I have an appreciation for fine music today had Granddad not
encouraged a twelve-year-old's piano plunking by singing along whenever he
recognized a song I was attempting? Would I enjoy gardening, the needle crafts
and animals so much without Grandma's gentle influence and infinite patience?
Would my relationships be so rich had I not observed my grandmother's role in
her own friendships? Would my contribution to society and those of my children
and my children's children be something less had my grandparents not been there
to reinforce and augment the teachings of my parents?
I was blessed to have grown up in a time when extended families sharing a
common neighborhood and even a common roof was the norm instead of the
exception. While yesterday's families depended heavily on extended family
member for help and support in the course of daily living, today's family unit
has become an independent entity. It operates as if it were neither needy nor
needed. It works thing out from within the family unit and prides itself for
being self-contained and self-sufficient.
The truth is, the American family is in crisis. Our children are screaming
for help through drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence. Many of our
kids are growing up without supervision and without a sense of being cared for
in homes where their parents owe their souls to the company store. Some
children are being raised in one-parent homes where the parent is spread too
thin trying to keep a roof over their heads to put much energy into parenting.
Sunie Leven, founder of the Young Grandparents' Club and editor of Your
Grandchild: News to Use for Today's Active Grandparents says, "The divorce
rate is climbing to over sixty percent. Our families are fragmented and the
security of our children is being upset because of this. Having a grandparent
figure, even a surrogate grandparent, can add to a child's overall security and
feeling of comfort, which helps with self-esteem and all the emotional
Irene Endicott, author of Grandparenting by Grace: A Guide Through the Joys
and Struggles (Broadman and Holman), considers grandparents, "God's gift
to young people unsteady on the path of life."
Even in families where both parents are highly involved in their children's
lives and where they're teaching and living Christian values, there's always
room for more love and support. Being involved with grandparents help children
feel a deeper sense of belonging. Studies have shown that when at-risk teens
study their personal genealogy, they gain more respect for their roots and more
hope for their future, thus greater self-esteem.
Give your children the gift of their grandparents. Let them experience a
grandparent's unconditional love. Allow them to know their grandparent who can
also become the family historian, spiritual leader, teacher, support system,
safety net, mentor, role model and playmate.
Honor the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection
Whether you live across the street or across the states from your children's
grandparents, you have the power. You can foster the bond between these
generations or you can destroy it.
- Stay in touch with your children's grandparents. If they live close by,
visit them regularly and make them welcome in your home.
- Invite them to special school, church and recreational activities in which
the kids are involved.
- Celebrate birthdays and other holidays together.
- Don't speak ill of the children's grandparents.
Communicate by Telephone
When the grandparents live too far away for impromptu visits, talk to them
regularly by phone so that each of the children get a chance to chat once every
other week or so. Have the kids call to share good news: about Hannah's first
A, Brandon's home run, Fluffy's litter of kittens and so forth. Make these
telephone visits something to look forward to, not something that seems like a
Here are some additional helps:
- Help your kids be more communicative on the phone through practice. Some
children are natural chatter boxes while others are more reserved. Help the shy
child learn to speak by arranging telephone conversations with people he's very
comfortable with. Help him become a good conversationalist by taking time to
discuss various issues of interest with him.
- For younger children, hang a picture of the grandparents near the phone so
they can look at it while talking to them.
- Help the grandparents to connect. Many grandparents don't know what to say
to their grandkids. You can help by keeping the grandparents updated. Tell them
how much Britta likes her 4-H sewing class, the Bible story that made such a
big impression on Robert last Sunday or the fishing trip the family took last
The Written Word
A stamp is still more reasonable than a telephone call and a letter is more
exciting to receive. Few kids will establish the habit of writing without
prodding, however. Here are some tips for creating good pen pals.
- Sit the kids down once or week or so with pretty paper, colored pencils,
stickers and other fun supplies and encourage them to write letters and/or draw
pictures to send to their grandparents.
- Be prepared for when the kids say, "I can't think of anything to
write." Suggest that they, "Write about your great dive into the pool
yesterday." or "Tell Nana about your new Easter dress." or
"Draw a picture of the skunk we saw in the backyard last week."
- Express an interest in the things the grandparents send the children. Read
notes and cards to young children. Discuss the origin, usefulness, etc. of
gifts. Display cards and photographs received.
- Make sure the children respond to gifts with a telephone call or a written
- Send the children's letters promptly so the kids won't see their works of
heart lying around for days like some unimportant piece of junk mail.
Strengthen the Bond
Make the grandparents a part of your family even when they're not there.
Talk about them throughout the course of the week. Say, "Granny called
yesterday and said that a girl scout troop came to her house to see her tomato
garden." Mention grandpa's knack for growing big pumpkins and grandma's
love of peppermint tea and shortbread cookies.
Bring the grandparents into the children's activities. Say, "Granddad
will be so proud when he hears about you making that out on third base."
Or "When I was a little girl, Grandma always wore a hat like that one to
Likewise, keep the grandparents informed about what's going on with the
kids. Tell them about your children's interests, grades, awards, even some of
the things that don't go so well. Don't overburden grandparents with negative
reports, but they need to know, after all, that their grandchildren are human.
To have a relationship with someone, you have to know them. To really know
someone, you have to be aware of their failings as well as their abilities.
Become a Shutter Bug
Grandparents love photographs and video tapes of their grandchildren and
these are wonderful bonding tools. Take pictures of the children playing in
sports, wearing the outfit Grandma made for the first day of school, everyone
enjoying the family hike and Jill with her spelling bee award.
When the family is together, take pictures of the children with the
grandparents and pick one or two to display in a prominent place for the
children. Have duplicate photos made and create an album of memories for the
Gift-giving, while one of the most joyful parts of being a grandparent, can
also be problematic when the grandparents don't know what the kids wear,
collect or play with. Offer to help grandparents choose appropriate gifts.
- Quiz the kids about what they want and pass this information along to
- Send a list of what the kids need.
- Help the kids pick out little gifts to send to the grandparents. This
teaches them thoughtfulness while keeping grandparents in the forefront of
their mind. And if the grandparents respond positively, it will boost their
Involve the Grandparents
Everyone likes to feel that they're needed especially if it's by the
- Ask for help from time to time. Maybe you could use some perspective in
handling a toddler or a teenage problem. Perhaps you'd like some guidance about
keeping the kids involved in their church. Most grandparents like to be asked
for their valued opinion and expert advice, but don't put them in the middle
between you and your child. Don't ask them to choose sides.
- Ask grandparents to help the children with their homework. Maybe one of the
children is studying a period in history that the grandparents lived or that
they're knowledgeable about.
- Encourage the grandparents to share family history with the kids. They can
record stories on video or cassette tapes or put it on computer disk for the
- Encourage Bible study between the kids and the grandparents. This can be
done either in person, through the mails or by phone. One long-distance
grandmother I know has her 8-year-old grandson choose a Bible verse each week.
They both read it and then get on the phone and talk about what it means.
Together they agree to put the scriptural message into daily practice
throughout the course of the week and then to share their experiences the next
time they talk.
When the grandparent visits, help them to get to know the child by involving
them in the everyday life of the family. Take them on a tour of the children's
school and Sunday school. Take them to Anna's choir practice, Gracie's
gymnastics and Brian's baseball game, for example.
When I visit my long-distance granddaughter, Staci, I always take her
shopping. We go shopping because she loves to shop, there's always something
she'd like to have that I can get for her and, in the process of shopping with
her, I always get some great ideas for her upcoming birthdays and Christmas.
Suggest time alone for the grandparent and the kids: a walk around the
block, a visit to the local Humane Society or a trip to the ice cream parlor.
One family in New York give their favorite grandfather a "honey
do" list upon his arrival. "I love having something to do while I'm
there," he says. "And the kids enjoy it too. They follow me around
everywhere I go. And they're good little helpers."
Have the grandparent help the child with a school project, or involve them
in helping the child redecorate her room. Arrange a fishing trip for the
grandfather and grandchild who love fishing. Plan a day in the kitchen with
Grandma for a child who enjoys baking.
Involve the children in the grandparents' visit, too. Let them add special
touches to the guest room with some of their special drawings or a hand-picked
bouquet of flowers. Encourage the kids to design a welcome banner to greet the
If God thought you didn't need the concern and help of grandparents, he
wouldn't have provided them for you. Bless them and bless the relationship
between your children and their grandparents, for this truly is a gift of love.
Patricia Fry is the author of Creative
Grandparenting Across the Miles (Matilija Press, 2000).