by Dr. Ken Canfield
This stage of life began gloriously, with the birth of a child. Somewhere in all the commotion, you received a new, well-deserved title: grandparent. That definitely wasn’t the most important thing that happened on that day, but it was pretty special nonetheless.
This is a stage when the rest of the world may be trying to retire you; but your grandchildren are ready to hire you on for one more stint in that rewarding calling as you invest in future generations.
Life has become grand again
… and much of the pleasure is wrapped up in those little ones who invade your home every so often. They put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and youthful feelings in your heart. As a grandparent, you will likely become more affectionate and nurturing than at any other stage of adulthood.
You have some extra leisure time and possibly a new sense of freedom. You probably have a lot less at stake in how the grandkids turn out. Your ego is not quite so mixed up with what they do, and your affection has no conditions or boundaries. You simply love them because they breathe—and it’s powerful.
I’ve hinted at some of the different emotions you will likely feel as a grandparent, and let’s take a closer look at five of them that researchers have identified that are associated with grandparenting:
Biological Renewal and Continuity
There’s nothing like being a grandparent to help you appreciate the time you have left on earth, and even better than that, grandchildren give you a chance to feel young again. That isn’t always easy at this stage of life! It requires some effort and planning to stay healthy enough to keep up with them and extend the time we have to love and influence them. We all want to leave a strong legacy of memories, character and values. We want our name and family to extend beyond our lifetime.
You probably feel rushes of sheer joy because you’re related to such adorable and talented children, and you get to enjoy seeing them and loving on them. “Surely no one has ever had such great grandchildren before!” Have you had that thought? There’s often a magical connection between grandparents and grandchildren. It’s deeply rewarding. Usually just the thought of your grandchildren will bring a smile to your face and warm thoughts to your mind. There’s a good reason that one of God’s blessings in the Psalms is, “May you live to see your children’s children.” These are relationships we should savor as often and as long as we can.
As a grandparent, you bring positive benefits to your grandkids’ lives, and it’s rewarding to be able to make those significant contributions. There are three ways this happens most often:
- Sharing wisdom. You have a lot of life-tested insights that will benefit your children and grandchildren, but it’s often a tricky situation, especially with your adult children. Usually, it’s best to wait until they ask for your advice; there’s just too much risk of offending them, even without realizing it. Your grandkids may be more eager to hear your thoughts, but again, be thoughtful about what the parents would want in the situation.
- Family history. You’re the perfect person to tell your grandkids about the past. They will benefit from hearing your stories about what it was like growing up, about your grandparents, about what their mom or dad was like as a child, and “the good ol’ days.” Find opportunities to tell those stories and share that family history.
- Financial support. Like many grandparents, maybe you can cover the costs of music lessons, a computer or supplies for school, or some other need. Or maybe you have savings for your grandchild’s college. This is another tricky one because your sincere desire to help or bless a grandchild could be misinterpreted, so it’s wise to get approval from the parents first.
This is probably more common with parents, where they attach a good amount of their identity in their children and what they accomplish. As a grandparent, it’s more a matter of personal pride. It’s rewarding to see what incredible people your grandkids are turning out to be, with talents and interests that you never could have imagined. it probably isn’t so much that your ego is tied to what they do, but there’s satisfaction in simply having a connection to them and admiring them for who they are. Just enjoy it!
This is a pleasure that you probably denied yourself as a parent. You were more focused on teaching your kids good behavior and responsibility. But now, you have the time and likely the resources to give your grandkids more of what they want. And even if money is tight, you will probably find ways to do fun activities with your grandkids or give them things that make them happy. Just be careful not to take it too far, where good spoiling goes too far and becomes unhealthy.
Grandparent, your work isn’t done; it’s just gotten more enjoyable. Your children and grandchildren need you as much as ever.
Which of these five emotions do you identify with most? Share about why grandparenting is rewarding and special for you (and see what other grandparents say) on our Facebook page here.