by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
There are so many rewards and joys that come with grandparenting, and I’m always surprised to meet grandparents who have little to do with their grandchildren. Then, when I hear their stories, it makes a bit more sense and I can sympathize.
Often there are issues with the middle generation, the grandkids’ parents, since they are the gatekeepers for that relationship. Conflicts and unresolved hurts with the adult children make it much more difficult to be the loving grandparent we want to be. But we grandparents can play a leading role in modeling positive, peace-keeping habits like proactive kindness, forgiveness, and not being easily angered.
Or maybe we had no relationship with our own grandparents growing up, so we feel a bit lost in the role. This is a very real challenge for many, and it can be frustrating because we can’t change the past. What we can do, however, is seek out other positive models for our grandparenting. It can be a tremendous help to meet with other grandparents regularly for support and to share ideas about daily challenges and victories. We can learn a lot from the positive things we see in other grandparents around us.
There are other barriers we may face, such as health concerns, personality differences or a lack of shared interests with grandkids, or geographic distance. Each of those brings its own set of complex challenges, and I believe the main suggestion I have applies to all three:
Find a way. Don’t give up. Apply all your creativity and determination to overcome the hurdles.
If your grandkids live halfway across the country, learn to use technology that will help you connect across the miles. (And if necessary, help cover the cost of making your grandkids compatible with your set-up.)
If your grandkids’ interests are foreign and/or strange to you, make the effort to learn about that on your own so you can encourage them and talk with them at least somewhat on their level. And they’ll be greatly affirmed when they see that you made the effort to learn something new so you could connect with them.
If you have health challenges that hamper your ability to be a grandparent, keep trying to see and affirm your grandkids in whatever ways you can. With whatever strength and breath you have, find ways to bless your grandkids.
As you’re tested by these very real barriers and difficulties—or others I haven’t mentioned—don’t be discouraged. The cliché is true: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Find a way. Your grandkids really are worth it.
How have you overcome a barrier in your grandparenting? Please share your ideas on our Facebook page. Your insights will help and encourage other grandparents who need it.