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Cultivating individual relationships with grandkids

Posted March 16

Grandkids — there is nothing like them.

Mary H. Waldrip said, “Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing older.” Joan McIntosh said, “They say genes skip generations. Maybe that’s why grandparents find their grandchildren so likable.”

It’s not that grandkids are easy, physically or any other way. As Gene Perret put it, “My grandkids believe I’m the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too.” And an unknown author said, “I have a warm feeling after playing with my grandchildren. It’s the liniment working.”

And there is an old Welsh proverb that says, “Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild." And Alex Haley of “Roots” fame said, "Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children."

Most grandparents share these sentiments, yet it is amazing how many of us have not made the effort to develop a unique and personal relationship with each grandchild. Many have spent virtually no time with their grandchildren one-on-one or in situations where the parents are not present. We need to realize that kids are different in environments where parents are not with them. It brings out other aspects of their personalities and you see them in a different light. We need to volunteer to babysit occasionally where it is just us and the kids and find other ways to get to know them by themselves, without parents around.

In fact, we should probably make it our conscious goal to get to know each grandchild one on one — to really know them and to keep updating what we know about them as they grow older. Get in the habit of going on individual “grandpa dates” or “grandma dates.” Take each grandchild out to eat, and let the grandchild pick the restaurant. Take along an impressive looking notebook or “grandpa date book” and ask them questions and take notes on your grandchild’s answers. Tell him or her you want to know as much as you can about him so you can always be his cheerleader and his helper. Ask her everything from her favorite color and food to what he thinks he might be when they grow up. Hand her the pen and let her fill in some things in your notebook such as “the three words that best describe me are …” or “the best thing and the worst thing in my life right now is ….”

Don’t editorialize too much during these date discussions. Just ask a lot of questions, listen and take notes.

Use the great word “really” to keep grandkids talking in these one on one dates. You can say “really” so many ways and in so many contexts. “Really!” as in, “Wow.” “Really” as in, “Whoa, I never knew that.” “Really?” as in, “Are you serious?” “Really!?” as in, “What the heck?!” With the appropriate inflection, that one word can keep kids talking and connecting.

Have them make a list in your notebook of “things I am sure I will do in my life,” “things I might do in my life” and “things I will never do in my life.” When Richard asked that last question to a 10-year-old granddaughter on a date, hoping for something like “I will never do drugs,” she thought for a moment and said, “I will never ride a bike naked in public!” Richard responded, “Really!?” and she said, “When we were in San Francisco, we saw this guy ride by naked and I said to myself right then, ‘I will never do that!’”

As your grandkids get into their mid- to late-teens, transition into being their consultants, their nonjudgmental advisers and maybe even their financial supporters for education and other worthwhile pursuits. Earlier grandfather dates will set the stage for that.

Tell them what a consultant is, that your door, your computer or your phone is always open to them, and that you will always love it when they ask for help or for advice of any kind. Tell them you know their parents are always first, but you are the backup. Tell them you want to know everything you can about them because the more you know, the more helpful you can be.

If you don’t live close enough to your grandkids to have regular grandparent dates, carve out some special, individual time when you are visiting their family or they are visiting you. And in the between times, get on Skype or FaceTime with them one on one, and get on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or whatever social media they use. If you need help with social media, just ask the grandkids to help you with it.

The bottom line is that we grandparents ought to make the effort and focus we devote to an individual grandchild match the level of love we feel for them and the joy they give us.

As NY Times #1 bestselling authors, The Eyres have now written 50 books and speak throughout the world on families and Life-balance. For seminars and presentations available locally go to www.lifeinfullcruise.com or www.lifeinfullonq.com.

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