Some years ago, a team of researchers came up with 6 qualities of strong families. And while parents have much more influence in these areas, I believe we grandparents have an important role in modeling and reinforcing these values. If we fell short as parents, this is like a second chance to do better and set a positive tone for our extended family.
Briefly, here are the 6 qualities of family strength:
Commitment. A grandparent’s commitment shows up in his or her priorities, maybe most of all. This means believing that God has a good reason for giving you these mature years, and it isn’t about moving to warmer climates or traveling the world—although those can be good. Most of all, these years are for investing in our children’s children. We’re here for a purpose, and it’s big and rewarding and important. Maybe the highest form of this commitment is seen in grandparents who make extraordinary sacrifices to care for their grandchildren full-time.
Spending time together. These investments don’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as including them in something you’re doing or going outside with them to play, visiting a museum or taking a class together. You might even take them along on a road trip, where you’ll experience more unplanned memories and conversations. Those informal times can be the best of all.
Expressing appreciation. Whenever I’m with my grandchildren, I’m always looking for ways to bless them, build them up, and make their day a little bit better. One way to do that is to just express how much I appreciate them. What I’ve found to be effective is to be specific.
How does that sound? You might say to your granddaughter, “I appreciate the way you care for your sister,” “I appreciate your smile,” or, “I admire your decisive thinking.” Be observant, and then make a comment about something positive and specific. Your granddaughter will beam with joy when she knows that you’re watching and that you really care.
Sometimes small, meaningful gifts can help you express that appreciation to your grandkids. Here are some that might be right for your grandchild.
Good communication. Intentionally seek to keep communicating with your children and grandchildren about everything. Occasionally that should include some high-level discussions about your life goals and purpose. Lay out clearly what’s most important to you and even get specific how you hope to live out your priorities in your family.
Talk about your plans and goals and the reasoning and values behind them. It won’t guarantee peace, but it will increase your chances.
Religious involvement. If your faith is important to you, then you probably want to pass it on through the generations. It can be tricky with grandchildren, especially if their parents take a different approach on some issues. But one great objective is to simply live out your faith in front of them, so they are left with many memories of what real-life faith looks like. One great example is simply letting them listen as you pray.
Problem-solving skills. With all the challenges today’s children and families face, they need a source of steady support. Every family is far from perfect, and we are in a great position to be reconcilers. Instead of getting drawn into pettiness and disrespect, we have to stay humble, draw on our years of experience and wisdom, and be peacemakers. Sometimes that will mean seeking forgiveness for something we have done.
I realize that each one of these qualities deserves an entire book to do it justice—and you can probably find books that cover each one. I would encourage you to choose one, maybe do some further reading, and set specific goals for how you might have a positive influence on your children and grandchildren in that area.