by Dr. Ken Canfield

Are your grandkids into things that you never could have dreamed of when you were their age?

It’s kind of incredible to think about, and I’m not referring to just the vast developments in technology over the past 50 years. Each of our grandkids is created unique, with gifts and interests, experiences and opportunities—as well as challenges—that are all part of what makes them special. Of course, you’re also one of a kind for those same reasons.

All this contributes to what makes this relationship special, or even magical. But what does this mean?

For one thing, it gives us plenty to share with our grandkids.

We all have stories to tell, skills to teach, wisdom and values to pass on. That’s one of the main characteristics of this stage of life: we feel a deep desire to pass on a legacy. We’re asking questions like, How will I be remembered? And we want to help prepare our grandkids for their future, long after we are gone. Maybe we want to make sure they’re very familiar with our beliefs and convictions.

This can also mean introducing them to some of the simple pleasures of life that we have known and enjoyed—board games, hobbies, taking a walk, traditions and food dishes, and so on.

Let’s also recognize that the special relationship with our grandkids can and probably should be a two-way growth process. Even as we’re sharing about our life and experiences …

There’s also room for us to move into their world.

That doesn’t mean moving in and taking over; it’s about being curious and engaged and willing to learn and try new things. It makes a big difference when we’re willing to learn about what they enjoy, so we can encourage them and talk with them on their level.

Sometimes our grandkids’ interests will line up with ours—like loving baseball or dance or debate or gardening—and that connection will be easy and natural. But in other ways, engaging with them will require us to stretch in some ways.

Yes, it will require some effort … maybe even some research; maybe even some money. It will probably feel strange and uncomfortable at first. We may have to download and learn a new app on our phone, sit and watch hours of games and performances, travel hundreds of miles, adjust our schedule, learn to prepare different foods, start a new hobby ourselves, and the list goes on.

When our grandkids’ interests are foreign to us, we should view that as an opportunity to show how much we’re interested in them, and really, how much we love them. They’ll be greatly affirmed when they see that we stretched and made the effort to learn something new so we could connect with them. And in the process, we learn a little bit more about our grandchildren and what makes them tick.

Grandparenting is an incredible adventure. Thank you for doing your best with your grandkids.

How have you stretched and learned something new because of a grandchild? See what other grandparents are doing and share your thoughts on our Facebook page here.