Helping to raise young school-age kids is really an amazing time. Your grandchild is out to see what life has to offer, to understand the world and become a citizen of that world.
The most obvious change in his routine is going to school, but that’s only part of a larger process. Your grandchild is an eager learner. Whether it’s what type of sneaker is cool, why Susie is so popular, a move on the basketball court, or how to make change for a dollar, he wants to know.
When our grandkids are in this mode of exploration, we grandparents don’t need to know everything or be able to teach them everything, we simply need to be active participants and facilitate the process.
Having an exploring child brings changes and challenges that every grandparent must be ready to address. These four suggestions will help you be the father your school-age child needs:
When your kids go out exploring, you accompany them. That means it’s you taking your granddaughter to dance practice, then going to watch your boy’s T-ball game. As committed grandparents, we are on a quest to observe, but not control, many facets of our children’s lives. Being aware will help us meet their needs, guide them through adjustments, and protect them from potential dangers.
One common pitfall during this stage is burning grandkids out with all the things you introduce them to. Be careful; busy adults often have busy grandchildren. It’s good for children to experience a wide variety of activities and come under the tutelage of other adult mentors, but they don’t have to do everything. For now, it’s best to encourage grandkids in several select areas and let them enjoy childhood while it lasts.
BE AWARE OF YOUR EMOTIONS
When your grandchild goes out into the world, so does your name and your reputation. Every time your grandchild steps up to bat, walks out on stage, or sits down to take an exam, he carries part of you with him, and you may feel your own self-worth on the line. You’re contending with two very real emotions: pride and embarrassment. We can’t stop feeling pride and embarrassment, but we can control how we handle them.
Pride in our grandkids should be expressed at every legitimate moment: “Sarah, you played that piece beautifully. Johann Sebastian Bach would be proud.” But pride becomes destructive when it causes us to put pressure on our grandchildren or blow their performances way out of proportion. Haven’t we all witnessed a grandparent making a scene at the Little League field when a call goes against his grandson or when the coach takes his granddaughter out of the game? Some grandparents even publicly berate their own kids for failing to do their best.
That fear of embarrassment in grandparents is understandable since their own egos are so caught up in their grandchildren’s performances. But maybe that’s the problem: we grandparents generally take too much credit when our children succeed and too much blame when they fail.
Anticipate feeling embarrassment since trial and error are part of every explorative process, but don’t express outward shame or anger. Above all else that you do as a grandparent, let unconditional love govern how you relate to your grandkids.
Healthy pride in your grandchild helps you realize that there’s a lot more at stake than your own ego. When your grandparenting is on display, it’s an opportunity. You can either strengthen your relationship with your grandchild, or you can make her wish she’d never tried out for drama club or volleyball. Be her biggest fan simply because she is your kid-win, lose, or draw-and she’ll be just as proud to be your child as you are to be her grandparent.
BE INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION
A child’s reading and study habits are greatly influenced by’ attitudes of adults around him regarding learning. If you’re not interested in your grandchild’s school work, chances are he won’t be either, and that can have far-reaching implications.
Help your grandchild maintain a positive outlook on school. Ask some pointed questions: “What are you covering in History?” “Mind if I read your English paper?”
Beyond the classroom, we grandparents must view educating our children as a way of life. Whether it’s in the car, on the golf course, at the supermarket, around the dinner table or in the garage, we’re sharing life skills, passing on who we are and what we believe.
We should give some concentrated thought to the task of helping to educate our grandchildren, starting with knowing their learning styles. In the book Talkers, Watchers & Doers, Cheri Fuller describes three different types of learning strengths that children demonstrate.
For example, a “doer and toucher” child won’t sit still very long during a lecture. Likewise, auditory “talkers and listeners” learn better from tapes than from books. “Watchers” are drawn to interesting colors, shapes and diagrams. We shouldn’t let our kids’ learning styles rule our lives, but we can be more sensitive to those unique traits as we lead our grandkids in the classroom of life.
Perhaps the best way to influence your grandchild’s learning is through encouragement. Notice progress and reward your grandchild when she achieves a goal. Compliment her intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness.
School-age children bring a lot of complexity to grandparenting and it’s often accompanied by tension. You may feel tension between your activities and your family. There may be tension in the changing relationship with your adult children. There will be tension when a child does something completely unexpected, inappropriate and/or embarrassing.
All this tension brings potential for conflict, and each grandparent needs a sense of peace. The peaceful grandparent can discern when to exercise discipline and when to laugh at a harmless mistake. He sees conflicts as teachable moments. The peaceful grandparent can place his activities in proper perspective.
Most of all, the peaceful grandparent lives confidently within the various tensions, knowing that relationships can be strengthened by challenges and crises. The bond with his grandchildren will only grow stronger through the shared trials.
As a child explores the world-discovering new skills, ideas and relationships-there are many uncertainties. He needs a guide who’s been there before, who can answer questions and point out danger signs. He needs to know he’s being tracked, supported, and grounded in what he knows to be true and reliable. As a peaceful grandparent, you can provide that security. You can be your explorer’s base camp, his solid anchor, his safe harbor.
- Invite your child’s friends to join you and your child on an outing.
- Search the library or the Internet together for resources that interest her. Include fiction, biographies, hobbies, sports, etc.
- Look for intersection points with your grandchild: “I met someone new today, how about you?” “I have a big project due next week—kind of like your book report.”
- Show your grandchild examples where his newly acquired aptitudes or skills will be useful in real life.
- Provide your grandchild with opportunities for business experience: a lemonade stand, lawn mowing, pet walking, baby-sitting, etc.
- Take your grandchild on a “field trip” to a museum, national monument, historical site or some other point of interest.
- Take note of your grandchild’s interests, then learn about one of them together by visiting someone who works in that field, taking a community course or reading a book together.