Grandparents are important figures to both their grandchildren and adult children. They often serve as a source of unconditional love and acceptance. A strong bond with a grandparent can help kids develop a positive impression about aging.
Since 1978, the first Sunday after Labor Day has been designated as a day to recognize grandparents and the ever-evolving role they play in families. This year we celebrate Grandparents Day on September 11th. As the holiday approaches, we are taking time out to look at the changing role of grandparents and offer a few suggestions on how you can honor them.
The Changing Roles of Grandparents
Older adults are living longer, healthier lives than previous generations. According to U.S. Census data, over 70 million Americans — almost one third of all adults — are blessed to live with the title of grandparent. It isn’t uncommon now for children to be lucky enough to have both grandparents and great-grandparents play a role in their lives.
As parents spend longer and longer hours in the workplace, families often count on grandparents to help bridge the childcare gap.
But grandparents can also play other important roles in family life ranging from historian to teacher.
The Important Role of Grandparents
Here are other ways grandparents play an important role in families:
- Family Historian: Grandparents serve as family historians. They pass on stories and information that help children and grandchildren learn more about their heritage and even our nation’s history.
- Emotional Support: Grandparents can be a conduit to help smooth the waters between their children and their grandchildren during the sometimes bumpy teen years. Because kids typically feel unconditional love from a grandparent, they may be more inclined to share their troubles and secrets with them.
- Role Models: Grandparents help grandchildren grow up to be kinder adults. Research on grandparents and grandchildren shows there’s a positive correlation between the development of kind, empathic behaviors in adolescents and having grandparents involved in their lives.
- The Teachers: Grandparents are often teachers. Because they usually have more free time, they can teach grandchildren important life skills. From cooking to home repairs and gardening, they provide valuable lessons to grandchildren.
Honoring a Grandparent on National Grandparents Day
Here are a few suggestions you can use to help honor the grandparents in your family:
- Movie & Game Night: Schedule a night dedicated to playing a grandparent’s favorite board games and watching old movies. Make their favorite treats and snacks to enjoy during the festivities.
- Celebratory Picnic: Plan a picnic at the retirement community they live in or at one of the many local parks in Seattle. It’s a great way for all the generations of your family to enjoy the great outdoors together.
- Genealogy Project: As the family historian, grandparents are often interested in genealogy projects. Depending upon your children’s ages, this can be as simple or as detailed as you choose. Older children can conduct a video interview with their grandparent talking about family heritage. Younger kids might enjoy making a life size version of a family tree with a leaf for every family member young and old. Maybe even the family pets.
Our final tip is not to let miles prevent you from honoring a grandparent on September 11th. Use a video chat service like Skype or Facetime to see a far-away grandparent in real-time and enjoy a virtual celebration!