Many people don’t know that here in the good ole USA, we celebrate Grandparents Day on the first Sunday after Labor Day. In 2018, that day is Sunday, September 9. It took many years, an act of Congress, and a president’s signature to proclaim this day National Grandparents Day but it’s still a rather unknown and forgotten observance.
Grandparents are motivated to nurture and care for their up-and-coming generation. Psychologist Erik Erikson referred to this innate motivation as generativity. The root of this word is generate, which suggests that grandparents are driven to create, share, teach, cherish, and guide; with grandchildren being the obvious beneficiaries of their grandparent’s creativity, generosity, love, and guidance. When it comes to the people they love, grandparents want to share with grandchildren their knowledge, wisdom, talents, and resources to help them be successful in life. Their efforts can help grandchildren developmentally, socially, and in forming and maintaining relationships with older adults. Just think of the many ways that grandchildren are benefited when grandparents fill the roles of mentor, surrogate parent, participant in religious ceremonies, babysitter, financial provider, role model, playmate, and family historian.
Until grandchildren are old enough, parents are the go-between for grandparents and grandchildren. Parents can keep the grandparents out or let them in. Not all family relationships are amiable and safe so judgement is needed. However, it’s encouraged that parents do what they can to foster a relationship between their child and his or her grandparents, especially when distance is the only thing keeping them apart. So, as you think about how to help your parents connect with your kids, have your parents consider the following ideas:
- Tell stories about the family’s history, ancestors, how things used to be “…back in my day”
- Teach skills related to sewing, mechanical things, cooking, woodworking, art, music, sports, and other interests of the grandparent and the grandchild
- Encourage with kind words and show love with appropriate physical affection
- Spend time doing leisure activities that both will find enjoyable
- Help grandchildren learn what it means to be a family, how to have a happy family life, and ways to foster strong family relationships
- Encourage opportunities for staying in school, getting an education or learning a trade
- Instill values, character, and ethics by being an example of good character
The official flower of Grandparents Day is the forget-me-not. So, on this Grandparents Day, let’s not forget the grandparents in our lives (and our children’s lives) and honor them with well wishes and gratitude.
Jim Bates, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist–Family Wellness
Ohio State University Extension
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences