Grandparents are meant for more than just spoiling their grandchildren. From the day your children invite you to meet their newest additions to the family, your grandchildren will steal your heart. You can’t imagine loving another human being more and, given how much fun they are, you may wonder why you didn’t have grandchildren before you had kids! As you look at this new little person, consider the important role you play in the life of your grandchild.
The most important thing a grandparent can do is offer their grandchildren unconditional love. It's no secret that many grandparents adore their grandchildren. Ask them about their grandchildren, and many will talk your ear off while simultaneously showing you endless pictures. They love their grandchildren and take delight in being a part of their lives. Our Father in heaven loves us with unconditional love, and the love of a grandparent may be the closest we get to glimpsing that kind of love here on earth.
Kids need to have adults in their lives to cheer them on and support them through difficulties. The simple act of sitting through a ball game or attending a concert is a way to show support, coming alongside grandchildren to show that they matter. Even if you can’t be present at every event, send an encouraging note or text. Follow up with a phone call to hear all the details of how things went.
You are now assisting parents as they parent. Support your children as they parent and do not undermine their efforts. Having access to your grandchildren often depends upon the relationship that you have cultivated with their parents. If parents can see that their children will be well cared for and that their parental guidelines will be enforced by you, then they will be more likely to enlist a grandparent's help. Children are instinctively trained in the military art of divide and conquer. But they will benefit most when the adults in their lives provide a united front.
In our online culture, it is easy to lose the social skill of engaging in face-to-face conversation. Grandparents generally have more free time and ability to just be present, sit, and listen. Spending time together while sharing ice-cream over the years will earn you the opportunity to hear more about your grandchildren's life. Even big kids like to chat over ice-cream cones.
My kids love to hear their grandparents tell stories about what life was like when they were young. On long car rides, they have enjoyed listening to hours of stories about their parents as children or about the mischief their grandparents got into as kids on the farm. Grandparents have the unique role of carrying family stories and sharing truths about days long past. Consider the value of writing down your story as a family legacy. You can pass along stories to inspire and challenge the next generation.
This may sound like a lofty title to wear, but the truth is that you live out your faith in the company of little witnesses who watch closely. Grandchildren look up to their grandparents as significant people in their life. As the person whose love most closely resembles God’s love, grandparents should live in a way that points others to him. Faith is transmitted most readily in the context of relationship, so let your faith leak out into your conversations with grandchildren. They will learn more by your example than your instructions.
The psalmist prays in Psalm 71:18,
“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
Be more than just an occasional babysitter for your grandchildren. Invest in this critical relationship to the fullest and bless the next generation.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster