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Grandparents―What’s Their Role?

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

For many things we do in life such as go from one elementary grade level to another, finish HS, apply to college, attend graduate school, and drive a car there is a course to take, a book to read, and a

practical application to pass. Interestingly, there is no such mandatory training requirement to get married, have children, or perform the duties of a grandparent. I guess we’re supposed to learn as we go―on the job training.

When our first granddaughter was born twenty years ago, I became a grandpa and have been winging it ever since. After all, we only saw the grandkids on holidays and special occasions. That changed in 2011 shortly after we moved to Florida when our youngest son and his wife had their first of two children. Suddenly, we lived close to one infant grandson and three years later, an infant granddaughter. Interacting with them was no longer a brief drive-by-visit, but full-on involvement. And I must say, what a joy it has been!

So far, it’s been a piece of cake: push the stroller, play on the floor, or watch them color. But as the years go by, it’s getting more interesting and challenging. Additionally, last year, our daughter and family moved to Florida and we now have two more older grandchildren as neighbors. The challenge is to interact in a meaningful way with the youngest a seven-year-old and the oldest a fourteen-year-old.

Of my four grandparents, only one played a significant role in my life when I was a kid and she left me with very fond memories of that time. That probably happened because we lived in the same apartment building with her during WWII and I saw her on a daily basis. I remember her as someone who genuinely cared for me, enjoyed my company (or pretended to anyway), gave me treats, and never scolded me. She was a happy and safe place, and I am thankful God put her in my life.

My fond memories of her got me thinking about how I come across to my grandkids. Do they know I love and care about them and will have their backs? In military terms, who’s in charge? What is my role? Where are the boundaries, and do I have a mission with clear objectives?

Grandparents have an important role. An Oxford University study by Prof Ann Buchanan, Dept of Social policy and Intervention found that grandparents play a high-level role in the emotional and behavioral development of children. When grandparents are present, children have fewer emotional problems, and they are less likely to be involved in negative behavioral situations.

What is the role of grandparents? “…grandparents can serve as a loving advocate, guiding their grandchildren along the path of life. You can encourage in your grandchildren a sense of self-worth that gives them a strong start and helps them rise to life's challenges.”

What are the boundaries? Susan V. Bosak, National Chairwoman of the Legacy Project in Washington, D.C., said, “Grandparents must remember that their children are the ones responsible for raising the grandkids. There's a fine line between showing your interest, being involved, expressing your wishes and needs, and being just plain overbearing.”

Andrea Gross, former kindergarten and first-grade teacher from Asheville, N.C., shared her wisdom with "I don't criticize. I had my turn to raise kids. This is my son's turn. Sometimes he drives me nuts, like rushing in if the kids can't entertain themselves more than 30 seconds and get bored. But it's his turn. Teaching isn't my role anymore. I used to buy educational toys instead of candy. Now I buy candy, and everybody is happier."

Grandpa for Dummies….the Cliffs Notes Version, by Mark Eastin, February 7, 2016

· Ice cream is one of the major food groups.

· You re-establish yourself as the smartest person in the room and the Mr. Fixit of the universe.

· Unless physical bodily injury is imminent…the word “NO” is not part of your vocabulary.

· When they are unhappy… make them happy….PERIOD!

· You keep really cool snacks in the house for when the grandkids come over.

· You keep a toy box in the living room for the first time EVER….

· A hug is usually the best medicine….for both of you!

60 Things Grandparents Should Never Do, By Sarah Crow and Kali Coleman, April 27, 2020


Whew! I feel a lot better! MYOB is a biggy from the parents’ point of view while encouragement and praise resonates well with the grands. Did I leave anything out? What do your kids expect of you? What do you expect of them? Pass on your tips as a parent or grandparent.



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