What’s the role of a grandparent? That varies greatly from uninvolved to overinvolved. For caring Christian grandparents perhaps the better question is What could be the role of a grandparent, and what influence can they have in the character development of their grandchildren and their eternal destiny? Listed are four ways to get us started being an incredible grandparent.
We remember the day we were told that we would be adding a new member to our family. We were about to be Grandma and Grandpa, or Grammy and Papa in our case. We weren’t part of the decision; we were simply informed. However, once we knew there was a baby on the way, we were part of the plans and preparations for its arrival. And soon our new role began.
It’s easy just to flow with what comes, but more often flowing with the current leads to drifting apart rather than coming together. It’s too easy to be engrossed in our own worlds and fail to be a part of theirs if we are not intentional. Intentional means to mark the calendar with dates and times for the grandchild. Those dates may include planned activities together or maybe a phone call, or better yet, face time. It means remembering birth dates, church programs, school programs, and holiday plans.
By the way—did you know? As a grandparent, you are a powerful role model; and you carry enormous influence in your family. That’s why it is extremely important to be intentional. You are helping to shape a life.
God is love. If we grandparents want to be successful in reaching and influencing the hearts of our grandchildren, we too must be love—unconditional love. Children who know they are loved develop confidence and healthy self-esteem. Unconditional love does not mean letting children get away with anything. That’s not what children really want. But it does mean never withholding love because of a choice that was made, no matter how poor.
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter observed, “Because [grandparents] are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.” That’s so true. Our son has a very special bond with his nana—that’s what he calls my husband’s mother. From the time our son can remember, Nana would always hug and snuggle with him and sing, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” When he had his own family, he passed on that feeling of being loved through that little song to his children hugging and snuggling with them as he put them to bed with “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”
Children want the attention of adults. Spending time with our grandchildren tells them they are important to us. Sing to them and later with them. Reading to them is a wonderful use of time. Studies show that a child who is regularly read to will be considerably more successful in school and future life attainments than they would have done otherwise. Aside from being smarter at school there is nothing more fulfilling than a little head leaned up against your shoulder whispering with a sleepy voice, “Read more, Grammy—just one more book!”
By the way—did you know? As grandparentswe have an incredible powerful influence. Here’s an important fact: we are right there behind the parents in influencing our grandchildren with spiritual truths. Nurture your relationship with your grandchildren and your children! Our values, attitudes, lifestyle, the words we speak, and our actions are extremely influential. We will have the opportunity to nurture a budding faith in our grandchildren and model a strong faith for our children.
Here are a few ideas that will help us mentor and disciple this generation of children:
Go for walks together, taking time to explore. This will open the door to conversations beyond what you could have ever planned. Bonds with each other and with nature will also be formed.
Pray for them—and with them! You are their connection with a God they cannot see.
Do service projects together. Working side by side helping others is one of the best educational experiences there is.
Share fun and memorable worship experiences with them.
Play games with your grandchildren, games from peekaboo to hide and seek, to the alphabet game when riding together in a car, and even table games. One game that continues to be a favorite with our grandchildren is hiding a plastic lizard that’s about six inches long. We would take turns hiding and then hunting for it. The game grew into the grandkids hiding the lizard before they left and we would find it later in strange places like the refrigerator or under our pillow. Then we would hide it to be found on their return.
By the way—did you know? If we want to pray with our grandchildren, we must first play with them.
Grandchildren are quick to see who we are and what is important to us. Let them see our consistent walk with God and our unfailing trust in Him. Let them know our confidence in the stories and promises of the Bible. Let them see our life reflecting Jesus in the way we interact with others, in the comments we make, in the things we do, and the books we read for our own pleasure. They’ll figure out what is important to us.
Our grandchildren know where we will be every Sabbath. Church is a constant they can rely on. That’s where we are when we visit them; that’s where we are when they visit us. Even when we are camping, family church is on the schedule, and they look forward to it because they are included in an active and joyful worship service.
We don’t need to point out that our bond with God is built on our relationship with Him. That’s what our grandchildren need to see. If we are to pass on our faith, it must be by letting them catch the vision, seeing our joy in Jesus and how important that relationship is to us.
As grandparents we have so much to offer: our unconditional love, our spiritual example, our wisdom and, most important, our time. Our grandchildren need us. Our children need us to be present and involved with their children.
By the way—did you know? Grandparents Day was September 11!
Bob Uhrig serves as Bible teacher and assistant chaplain at Spencerville Adventist Academy in Maryland. His wife, Sherri, is children’s ministries director of the North American Division.