I have been a grand parent since 2007. Our first grandson arrived that year. Two years later our secondgrand son arrived. Both were born in Mumbai in a hospital close to our home. So I started my role as a grandparent from the day they were born.
Both my wife & I played distinct and different roles as grand parents. She was a big help to my daughter in doing many things for the babies. I played a limited role in the early days. I used to get up early, so did our grandsons. So my daughter would hand over the baby to me. She would get a couple of hours of rest.
I used to play with the kids, sing songs and so on. When the kids grew older I used to take them around the colony. Today they are much older – one is 7 and another is 5. And they live in far away in the US.
They know many things I don’t know. Their interests are different. This could be the moment I could lose the ‘connect’ with them. This is where we can lose ourselves in the generation gap. It may not even occur to the children that such a gap is likely to occur. I realise that it is for me to do something to bridge the gap.
So what do I do?
It occurs to me that if I want to bridge the gap, I need to think about it from their angle and not mine. I need to think about them – what they love, what they talk about, what they think, what they say, what they see and what they hear. What are some of things they don’t like? What are they afraid of? What would they like to do? Like to get? Where would they want to go? What would they like to learn about? What is their favourite game, TV show, fictional character?
That is only half the job. What do I do with all this information?
I need to understand my own strengths and preferences. For example: I am good at painting and drawing. How do I use this to connect to my grand children? I could paint their favourite movie characters on T Shirts. To make it even more engaging, I could ask them to choose the picture. Perhaps ask them to assist me when I am painting the picture on the T Shirt.
SKYPE (and other similar applications) are a big help. It gives us a great opportunity to talk to our grandchildren. Now the challenge is how do I make each conversation interesting and engaging? My wife hunts for interesting riddles, puzzles, etc. and our elder grandson loves them. He has started sharing some of his own puzzles. The younger one loves stories and he makes up his own.
Our only investment is time. Time to prepare, and time to spend. When they come online we must be ready to spend at least 30 to 45 minutes. They don’t like being rushed.
I come back to the question. What role can a grandparent play today? The best role is that of good listening post – we simply listen to whatever they say. Without judgment, without interruption. Over a period of time we can become their sources of information, entertainment and even become a friend.
‘A friend they love and trust’ is a great role for a grandparent. They confer the role; we have to earn it. And keep it.
Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Sridhar Ramanathan, the Founder of IDEASRS, where he is also a Strategic Innovation Coach.
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