by Dr. Ken Canfield

For many of us, expressing love to our grandchildren has given a whole new energy to our celebrations of Valentine’s Day. I hope you found ways to enjoy it this year.

Before we move too far away from February 14th, allow me to offer a reminder about how important your marriage can be for your grandkids. Even if they don’t get to watch you interact as a couple as often as they see their parents, the example you set and the impressions you create as a couple can be very powerful and lasting.

In today’s world it’s increasingly likely that your grandkids are experiencing complexities in their home life: Maybe they are being raised by a single parent or their parents don’t have a strong marriage. Or maybe you’re raising them full-time. That makes your example even more important.

Have you settled into a routine as a couple after all these years? Some of that predictability is good; it means you’re dependable and reliable for each other. But I hope you’re still finding new ways to express your love and commitment … and not hiding them from your grandkids.

Maybe more than anything, realize that you are influencing your grandkids through your marriage. Maybe the best way I can illustrate this is with some samples of written comments from adults about their grandparents’ influence, which I drew from extensively in my book, The HEART of Grandparenting. I was a bit surprised at how often their memories focused on their grandparents’ marriages.

My grandparents have been married for over 60 years. They have taught me that with love, patience, and prayer, marriages can last forever! I hope to follow their example so my marriage can last forever!

My husband and I look to his grandparents’ marriage as a good model for ours. We see, for instance, that love is not a feeling; it’s an action. You have to choose to love your spouse daily, even when you don’t find your spouse especially lovable person that day.

MawMaw takes care of PawPaw full time despite her own health issues. PawPaw’s Parkinson’s has caused his body to slow down a lot, and he loses his balance and falls. He can’t drive the car anymore because he can’t lift his legs high or fast enough. He also has developed dementia, so he forgets a lot of things, which turns into frustration that MawMaw has to help him with. And their love for each other through all this is a true example of forever love. Next January they will be married for 50 years, and they are still going strong. They have taken their vows seriously: “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part.”

My grandparents gave me a sense of commitment to family that I feel very blessed to know. My grandfather suffered several major health issues, including a serious stroke and cancer. Through it all, he and my grandmother were committed to loving each other and caring for each other. Neither would have imagined not being there for each other. The strength of their love made me stronger in my commitment to my own family. I love them dearly for their example of family.

What do you hope your grandkids take with them from watching your marriage? Please share your ideas with other grandparents on our Facebook page.