What a joy to be near many of my grandchildren! Yes, I am blessed. For through intention or good luck, I live close to many of them.
Today’s elders have some interesting qualities. Many are healthier than their own parents were at the ages of 50 – 90. Many have adequate or even generous financial resources.
For a grandparent to maximize the connection and benefit for their grandchild, there needs to be frequent, interpersonal shared experiences. FaceTime won’t cut it! When a child in the years of infant through age 10 has regular shared experiences with their grandparent, real benefits emerge.
Let’s search for some. Financially, a grandparent can offer financial support for the grandchild. Purchasing tickets for the theater, a children’s movie, or on a larger scale, adding some funds to a child’s educational savings add to the financial stability for the child.
A grandparent comes with a broad knowledge of life from a different generation. The wisdom learned over the years offers the child a view into their family story that often goes untold by the child’s parents. The child sees the larger landscape of their lives through the stories offered by a grandparent.
A grandparent brings a capacity to buffer some of the bumps of daily family living. A greater level of emotional stability and healthy routine is enhanced when a grandparent shares in the weekly or monthly life of a child. A child may experience nurturing love and affection when the grandparent is present.
Sometimes, small episodes of shared time between the child and grandparent open up an experience that is very rich in quality that a parent might have left unrealized. For example, sharing time in nature, just walking in the woods or along a creek gifts both the child and elder with insights into each other’s world that otherwise would not have been realized. The child might lift up a rock or roll a log over to uncover a myriad of insect life for the elder. The elder simply wants to be curious and ask some intriguing questions of the child for a lively intergenerational nature experience.
A grandparent can serve as a nature mentor for the child. Scott Sampson, the author of How To Raise a Wild Child, offers his wisdom for the elder/grandparent:
“Rather than sharing knowledge and expertise, your chief goal as a nature mentor is to help instill a deep longing for nature”
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, gifts us with a deep insight into the value of helping our children find a sense of peace and freedom in nature:
“Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, and turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion…
In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy; a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace”
With the grandparent serving as the means, the child can be guided to places nearby for such delightful and healing episodes.
Rachel Carson knew the power of the elder in gifting the child in her words:
“If a child is to keep alive her inborn sense of wonder … she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with her the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
So let’s commit to the creative challenge of serving as models for our families and communities of grandparents and elders fully awake, fully aware of our capacity for enjoying the synergistic gifts in our relationships with the grandchildren in our worlds.
Arthor, What’s Under That Rock Papa?
Founder, Creative Nature Play