Yesterday, my five-year-old daughter was going to our neighbor’s house to play with their granddaughter who visits most weekends, and she said, “She is SO LUCKY! She gets to go to her grandma’s house every weekend!” Her comment actually kind of shocked me. Not that our neighbors aren’t cool people, but I never would have thought something like that as a kid. I knew that my grandparents loved me, but they were of the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality and I was never really excited to go to their houses. I told our neighbor about my daughter’s comment and she replied, “Oh, no, I’M the lucky one!”
The relationship between a child and their grandparent can be one of the most meaningful relationships in both of their lives. People who were lucky enough to be close to their grandparents growing up, either geographically or emotionally, often talk about how much they learned from their grandparents, how much they confided in them, and how much of a difference it made in their lives to have that special bond with their grandparents.
Generations ago, it was much more normal for families to live close together and more kids did see their grandparents regularly. In today’s culture, most of us don’t live close to our parents. We have to be more intentional about making sure our kids connect with their grandparents in whatever ways we can make it happen. With our hectic lives, calling, video chatting, or visiting grandparents can seem like just another thing we have to pack into our already busy schedules. But it can make such a difference for our kids and bring unparalleled joy to our parents. Whether you live across the country from parents or right next-door, these five ideas for encouraging grandparents will help you build that closeness for your kids and bring smiles to your parents’ faces.
5 Ways for Kids to Encourage Their Grandparents
1. Celebrate the Little Things. Don’t just call, visit, or video chat on their birthdays or holidays. Have the kids call their grandparents because they saw their favorite flowers in the grocery store that day or because they had a fun weekend planned with their friends and want to tell their grandparents all about it. Have the kids call them to share small victories in their lives—when they win the class spelling bee, or score a goal in their soccer game or find out they got a solo in the church choir. Sharing the joy of these little moments can connect your kids to their grandparents in a deeper and more meaningful way.
2. Send Pictures. A LOT. I’ve never heard a grandparent complain about being sent too many pictures or videos of their grandkids! My brother lives on the other side of the country but texts pictures almost daily to my parents and they gush over Every. Single. One. It doesn’t have to be a photo of anything special, just a quick picture to say “we were reading this book you gave us and thinking of you” or “look at this picture I drew” or just pictures of them doing regular old stuff like playing with toys or with food all over their faces in their high chairs or riding their bikes. The more pictures we send, the more our parents can feel like they are a part of our kids’ daily lives. We’re so lucky that we can send a picture or video so quickly and easily these days, why not take advantage of it.
3. Pray for Them. When you do family devotions or pray at the dinner table or before school or before bed, do you include grandparents in your prayers? Not just when they have surgery coming up or something, but regularly? Praying for people helps you connect with them on a spiritual level in a way that nothing else does. Encourage your kids to thank God for specific things about their grandparents and ask for God to help them with specific needs. The more specific you are with your prayers for them, the more connected the kids will feel to them. Then the next time you call, video chat, or visit, the kids can tell them they prayed for them!
4. Give them Drawings or Cards. Grandparents love kids’ art. Especially anything with handprints or footprints, but really anything. While you may feel like you’re drowning in kids’ art and wonder if they’ll notice if you just chuck half of it in the garbage, your parents would love to have more of it to proudly display on the fridge. You can give your parents the extra art projects you don’t want to keep or have the kids create new ones for them. If you can mail or give the original to them, great. You can also simply take a picture of the original and text or email it to them and they can print it out!
5. Share Hugs and Kisses. Even if they have to be virtual. If you live close to your parents, this is something the kids can do more often, but even if they live far away, you can have them blow kisses in the video chat or “send hugs” in a card in the mail or even through an emoji on a text. Just be sure your kids are comfortable with whatever kind of affection they offer. Don’t make them hug or kiss anyone if it makes them uncomfortable. If a kid isn’t as comfortable with kisses, they can just hug. If they aren’t comfortable with hugs, they can create a special handshake to do with their grandparents.
Our kids’ relationship with their grandparents can be really special if we just make a little effort to create an intentional connection between them. And helping them think of how to encourage other people in their lives can be a time of character building too! It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or stress, just a few small things can make your parents feel like they are a special part of your kids’ lives and can give your kids that unique relationship that will make a difference for years to come.
If you don’t have grandparents close by or if your relationship with your parents is strained or if they are not the kind of influence you want to have in your kids’ lives, you can build the same kind of relationships with any grandparent figure in your church or neighborhood. There are so many older people out there who would love to “adopt a grandchild”. You just have to ask!