by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
When adults describe their grandparents, one phrase appears again and again: unconditional love. When we are healthy, mature grandparents functioning well in the family, love and grace become the driving forces of our relationships with our grands.
Here are some examples we’ve collected:
They did not have the best of everything or a lot of anything, but they made sure I was loved unconditionally. I miss them!
[From Grandma] I have learned how to love unconditionally, to forgive without question, to be a positive example … and to not be so judgmental of others.
My grandma was a nurse who taught me to care about life, to serve others, and to become a happy and kindhearted person. I’m convinced grandmas are God’s angels who touch our lives and hearts with their unconditional love.
My grandma raised six children and ran the family farm after my grandpa’s death at a young age, and she did all this without so much as a complaint. She also didn’t allow sadness to take over. She taught us unconditional love and acceptance.
Grandparenting is about giving unconditional love, sitting on the floor and playing without worrying about the dirty dishes, and recognizing the important and blessed role I play in the lives of my grandchildren. I only hope I can live up to the example my grandma set.
A grandparent’s unconditional love sticks with children for many years. But where does that come from?
Part of it is from the freedom and hope and joy we feel with our grandchildren that we may not have known as parents. We have less of our ego wrapped up in our grandchildren’s behavior or performance, and so we accept them for who they are, we love them unconditionally, and we can be there for them in a way no one else can.
Most of us would do anything in our power for those precious grandkids. And sometimes that’s easy, but often our love will be tested by broken relationships, or when a grandchild takes a path that goes against what we believe.
But really, aren’t those the times that define love as unconditional?
Maybe love will motivate us to appreciate the person even when we don’t approve of their actions. Or we admit that we were wrong and ask forgiveness. Maybe we’ll make sacrifices so we can take on a bigger role in mentoring or caring for our grandkids during a time of need.
Those grace-filled connections with our grandchildren will also be vitally important during the child’s teen years, which are often difficult for everyone in the family. When communication breaks down or emotions are running high at home, everyone benefits when grandparents are available. Parents can go to their parents for wisdom, and teens can turn to Grandpa or Grandma for unconditional love. We grandparents also help to meet needs in ways the parents can’t, or that they don’t see, which can be a huge help.
That’s what love does. And grandparents can do it like no one else.