If you’re like most parents, you feel intense pressure to nurture and shape your children into the best possible human beings possible. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, two, even four parents or in-laws nearby, luck is on your side: Studies show that positive grandparent involvement plays a crucial role in grandchildren’s emotional development.
Grandparents are wellsprings of love and knowledge that provide endless benefits to their grandchildren if the you cultivate the alliance the right way. Here are five ways you can jumpstart a life-changing relationship between your children and their grandparents.
Send Them On Vacation to Visit
Image via Flickr jetalone
Kick your kids out: Send them to Grandma’s for the night. An intergenerational slumber party is a surefire way for kids to get to know – and love – their grandparents. The older kids gets ample time to share their favorite activities, stories, and photographs. The younger kids gets ample time to talk, giggle, and bond with their grandparents.
Before dropping them off at their “home away from home,” remind Grandma of Grandpa of your rules and routines. Then, prepare for them to break those rules and routines – just a bit.
Send the Kids and Their Grandparents Outside
“Go outside and play!” Try saying this to your kids and their grandparents. Whether they’re digging in the dirt or taking a leisurely stroll together, time spent outdoors benefits young and old alike. Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” says kids today suffer from nature deficit disorder, an ailment easily remedied by going outdoors.
Geriatric physician David Fisher told the Chicago Tribue one of the best ways older people can maintain independence is to exercise their legs. By sending kids and grandparents out to play, you foster a win-win situation in which both generations bond over good health.
Have Grandparents Read to Your Kids
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Children love stories; grandparents love to read them. Provide grandparents with copies of your kids’ favorite books. If the print is too small or books just aren’t available at the grandparents’ house, direct them to a story-telling Internet site like Storyline Online. Children and adults can cuddle up to the computer and choosebetween short, colorful videos.
Make Them Explore Their Creative Side
Image via Flickr jc.winkler
Kids love hands-on activities in which they get to make a mess. Provide the grandparents with all the beads, glue, markers, and paper needed to fill an afternoon with creativity. Scour the Internet for easy kid recipes like those found on NickJr.com, or kid-friendly science experiments like those found on NationalGeographic.com, and print them out for Grandma and Grandpa.
Another way for the generations to bond is to create a memory book. You can buy a template book online like this one from AARP, or you can use ideas from websites like Pinterest to create your own.
Tell Your Family to Hit the Road
Taking vacations together is a marvelous way for different generations to create memories and strengthen bonds. Whether it’s a short day trip sponsored by any of the wonderful Orange County retirement communities or a two-week trek across the country, 78 percent of grandchildren polled in a recent survey by TravelEffect.com said they felt closer to their grandparents because of a family travel experience.
Less than half of all parents realize how significant an intergenerational vacation is, according to the same survey. The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones to hit the road.
Schedule Time Together
Encourage kids and grandparents to make regular social appointments with each other. Even if kids and grandparents live far apart, phone or Skype calls are easy to make daily and weekly. Family traditions are another great way to build lasting memories. Whether the tradition is going to the farmers’ market every Saturday with Grandpa or getting together once a year to celebrate Grandma’s birthday, consistency is key when bonding through tradition.
The research results are in: Close relationships established early on between grandchildren and grandparents are likely to endure throughout adulthood. Why should you, the parent, shoulder the entire child-rearing burden yourself when you’ve got parents or in-laws who are ready to help you through your journey? It’s healthy for grandchildren to spend time with their grandparents. So relax, step back, and let some old pros take over your job for a little while. You deserve it, and so do they.