by Dr. Ken Canfield

As grandparents, we are role models for our grandchildren.

And that applies to pretty much every area of our lives—some that are obvious and some that aren’t. They’re watching us, learning from us, and possibly even imitating us.

And really, our behavior and our character when we aren’t with our grandkids affects who we are, so we could say that everything we do will impact them in some way. And that includes the example we set regarding being a man or woman.

In most cases, our grandkids’ parents will be the most available and most important role models. But children also need other adults to help to fill out the picture: maybe teachers, coaches, neighbors, youth sponsors, and yes, us. As grandparents, we have a lot to contribute to their ideas about what it means to be male or female.

And it could be that young children are too close to their parents to think about these things. They view Mommy and Daddy as the people in control at home, who make them eat their peas, do their homework, and help out in the kitchen or the back yard. And for sure, all of that interaction sets a strong example.

Whether Grandma and Grandpa are around occasionally or a lot, we’re usually part of the bigger world, with our own separate routines and pursuits. There’s more distance in those relationships, and grandkids have more time to reflect on interactions with us, things we have said or done, and patterns we have established.

This was reflected in some comments we received about grandparents, including this one:

My two grandmothers served as an inspiration, as they were never satisfied with status quo. One became widowed at the age of forty and entered the workforce for the first time as a single mother of three…. Words cannot express the impact of these two dedicated women upon my life.

What a remarkable example and legacy for this grandchild! We mustn’t forget,

They’re watching us, and years from now they’ll think back to how we handled ourselves.

This is clear in this adult woman’s reflections:

Nannie [would] give her shirt off her back and [was a] hard worker. Even though she never had to work because my grandfather had a great job, she was always there to lend a hand when we needed. Never expected anything in return. She was the most loving woman I have known and has definitely shown a wonderful example to never settle for less and stand up for myself.

One thing that sets us apart from many other people in our grandkids’ lives is our age and experience. Our grandkids surely wonder: When I get fifty or sixty down the road, what will my life be like?

To a large extent, grandsons are looking at their grandfathers and granddaughters at their grandmothers. How does a grandfather or grandmother act? What do they do with themselves? What’s most important to them?

This also goes across genders—granddaughters with their grandpas and grandsons with their grandmas. Young children are often annoyed by the opposite sex, and then when they’re more intrigued years later, there’s still a lot that’s confusing. But you can be someone of the opposite sex who seeks to understand them, who enjoys talking with them, who affirms them, and with whom they can have a fun and rewarding connection.

You can help plant seeds for healthy relationships later in life.

How have you succeeded in connecting with your granddaughters? And your grandsons? Please share some wisdom with other grandparents on our Facebook page.

This is one of the 5 Qualities of a Grandparent’s Example, from Dr. Ken’s longer article which you can read here.