by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.

Some years ago I had a memorable conversation with a grandfatherly gentleman who said he appreciated some of my books and other resources for dads. He pulled me aside to share his secrets to success, and I listened very closely because it was clear he had learned some things from years of experience as a father and grandfather. And I’m convinced you will benefit and be encouraged by his wisdom.

He said, “There are two things that every kid needs – two things.”

He reached into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out a pocket knife that must have been fifty years old. “Every kid needs a pocket knife,” he said. “Every one of my kids had a pocket knife. I even give them to my grandkids! My son came to me and said, ‘Dad, they’re going to cut themselves,’ and I said, ‘It’ll only happen once.’”

Now, you may or may not go out today and buy pocket knives for your grandkids. This man had strong feelings about it, and you may object to the idea for a number of valid reasons. We all have to discern whether pocket knives would be positive things to give our own grandchildren, and whether their parents want them to have one at their age. But I do respect the wisdom of this man’s experience and the connection he clearly made with his grandkids.

Maybe there’s a bigger insight here to consider: This grandfather found his own unique way to make memories with his grandkids, and I encourage you to do the same.

Bring to life those unique characteristics and traditions that make you the grandparent you are. Find the magic and mystery of a pocket knife or a pocket watch or an old locket. Maybe you have a hobby that could unlock great times of connection with your grandkids. Consider a patient one-on-one woodworking or cooking lesson, a spin in your rebuilt Camaro, or taking walks with your grandkids and your camera. Memories that last forever can be made during breakfast dates at the local cafe, hunting for arrowheads, playing a board game, or baiting a hook at that fishing hole that only the two of you know about.

The second piece of advice from my new friend was simple: “It is vital that we touch our grandkids, look ‘em in the eye, and tell ‘em that we love ‘em.”

This one isn’t a revolutionary thought, although many of us feel deprived of regular opportunities to carry it out thanks to social distancing. But under normal circumstances, I hope those things come naturally for grandparents. Maybe you need this gentleman’s reminder about how beneficial it is to affirm your grandchildren with touch, look them in the eyes and say, “I love you.

Be a constant, reliable source of love and acceptance for them in whatever ways you can.

What are your secrets or nuggets of wisdom as a grandparent? Please leave a comment and interact on our Facebook page.