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This comprehensive guide offers ten basic principles for effective grandparenting, combining solid advice from experts with inspirational and humorous real life stories. Intentional Grandparenting helps ease the transition for grandparents who face a vastly changed world of parenting by explaining the differences between "then and now" in childbirth and child-rearing practices, as well as what to expect in diverse family situations such as blended families and same sex unions. This handbook includes a wealth of practical ideas, such as how to baby-proof your home, how to stay in touch (including cyber-grandparenting), and how you can best support your adult children as they become parents. Informative and fun, this book is an indispensable tool for anyone entering this challenging and rewarding life stage.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Peggy Edwards is a health promotion writer and consultant based in Ottawa, Canada. She is the coauthor of the best-selling book The Healthy Boomer: A No-Nonsense Guide to Midlife Health for Women and Men and its sequel, The Juggling Act. Mary Jane Sterne is a senior management consultant with a background in social work and psychology. She has been coaching human resource professionals for more than ten years. She has taught psychology at Carleton University and has ran workshops for parents and early-childhood educators.
Read an Excerpt
A Contemporary Guide
By Peggy Edwards, Mary Jane Sterne
Fulcrum PublishingCopyright © 2008 Peggy Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne
All rights reserved.
Determine the Kind of Grandparent You Want to Be
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will do."
— Inspired by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
A few years ago, Maureen attended a memorial service for her friend Richard's mother. The deceased was the wife of a very successful businessman, the mother of four accomplished sons, and a grandmother of nine. After Richard had spoken eloquently about her, his brother read aloud a letter from his daughter, Sonia, who couldn't attend. Maureen describes her reaction to the letter.
Sonia talked about how strong an influence her grandmother had been, despite the generation gap and the very traditional role her grandmother had played. She described her generosity, her integrity, her varied interests, and, most specifically, how she had been such a supporting presence in all her grandchildren's lives. Everyone was so moved by this loving letter. I knew then that I wanted my grandchildren to write such a tribute to me when I died.
The first principle of grandparenting is the springboard for your role as a grandparent: determine the kind of grandparent you want to be. If your grandchildren were to write your eulogy, what would you want them to say? Would it be about what you have accomplished? How you helped them? Inspired them? Amused them? Played with them? Loved them? How you built a tree house together? Taught them to fish? How you were always gentle or full of energy?
Mary Jane explains how she felt when her granddaughter Alexa, who was almost six, described her as the grandma "who always laughs and gives big hugs."
While this was a fairly accurate picture, I also wanted her to remember me as the grandma who spent time with her, who listened to her, who taught her things. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could not leave this to happenstance. I needed to develop a clear picture of the kind of grandparent I wanted to be and what that meant in terms of committing my time and energy. I needed to create a personal vision and strategy for grandparenting.
In this chapter you will discover a process for developing your vision for grandparenting and identify strategies for making it happen. We refer to this process as "intentional grandparenting" — planning ahead and taking deliberate action to be the kind of grandparent you want to be.
In her book The Essential Grandparent, Lillian Carson, a psychotherapist and grandmother, talks about the importance of planning our role as a grandparent. Her work as a therapist has confirmed the notion that neither parenting nor grandparenting are instinctual. We need to clarify our intentions as a grandparent and then develop some strategies to get us there. The grandparent role has the potential to enrich our lives and those of our children and grandchildren, or to cause stress and discord. A little thought and effort can make the difference in how our role plays out.
Then and Now
Our grandparents might have laughed at the notion of applying strategic planning concepts to grandparenting. Isn't grandparenting just another form of parenting, but without all that responsibility? And don't both just come naturally? Our generation knows all too well that it is more complicated than this. Modern grandparents must adjust to same-sex and blended families, long-distance grandparenting, and other changes in family structures. Today's standards for parenting are higher and more explicit than when we were parents. Our children have access to research and theories on myriad topics, ranging from how to stimulate the neonatal infant to how to manage your child's sleeping habits. While this is helpful, it can be confusing as well.
Social expectations of us as grandparents are also greater and more complex. Most of our children assume that we will be involved and active grandparents, but they don't necessarily assume that we have all the answers. Many are better educated than we were as parents. We had Dr. Spock. Now, there are more than two thousand titles on child rearing available. Linda, a grandmother of three, describes it this way.
I shouldn't have been surprised when my daughter-in-law informed me that because child rearing had changed so much, she and her friends relied on each other for advice and information, not their parents. Clearly I was valued as a grandparent, but not as someone she would turn to for advice on how to get my grandson to eat broccoli. Getting your children to eat vegetables is somehow much more complicated than when we were parents. There are whole books devoted to the subject. Dr. Spock covered vegetables in three lines.
In addition to higher expectations, modern grandparents have more-complex lives. We are busy: many of us are still working, and we may have more interests and hobbies than our grandparents did. Likely we travel more and have more disposable income. We are preoccupied. We schedule time with our grandchildren in our daily planners.
Crafting Your Vision
We all have an image of the ideal grandparent, shaped by our own experiences and values. It was clear from our interviews that while most grandparents had spent little time in conscious reflection, their actions implied definitive values and principles underlying how they grandparent.
Myrna, who is a busy senior executive and an involved grandmother with ten grandchildren, was typical in the way she responded to a question about her vision of grandparenting.
I've never really given it much thought. But I guess if I think about it now, I want to share my values and my perspective on life with my grandchildren. I want each of them to feel special and to know that they have somewhere to go, no matter what. I want to be there for them and give them my time.
Myrna then went on to describe the evolution of her grandparenting style from an activity-focused grandparent (wanting to do things with the grandchildren) to a confidence-building grandparent (wanting to help the grandchildren feel good about themselves).
Whether we have articulated it or not, most of us have a vision and a philosophy of grandparenting. The question we might ask ourselves is this: are we being thoughtful and intentional in our behaviors or would we do things differently if we spent a little more time in reflection?
Grandparenting is an important aspect of family life, and there is value in reflecting on our role up front. For those of you who are new or soon-to-be grandparents, this is an opportunity to start off on the right foot, confident that you have an understanding of your hopes and dreams as a grandparent. With a clearer vision of the future, your actions are more likely to support your intentions. For those of us who are veteran grandparents, confirming our long-term goals will help us see what changes we need to make to ensure we are being the grandparents we want to be. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, compares having a vision or mission to having a destination and a compass — necessary items for any journey.
This section includes a series of questions and suggested exercises to help you develop a personal vision of the kind of grandparent you want to be. This process has four steps.
1. Reflect on your own experiences as a grandchild and how they have shaped you.
2. Think about your stand on some of the key aspects of grandparenting.
3. Consult with your adult children during the process.
4. Describe your vision.
Step 1: Reflect on your own experiences as a grandchild and how they have shaped you.
Think back to when you were a grandchild. How involved were your grandparents in your life? How did they make you feel? What did they do to demonstrate that they loved you and that you were special? What did they do that made you feel sad, unloved, or inadequate? What are your favorite memories? When you think of your grandmother, what images come to mind? When you think of your grandfather, what images come to mind?
From our interviews and research we know that there is little common ground here; our experiences are as varied as snowflakes. For some of us, our grandparents were central to our lives and brought stability and hope. Audrey, a grandmother of five, talks about the loving relationship she had with her grandfather.
I had a wonderful granddad and I spent a lot of time with him. My memories of him are very important for me. Granddad showed me how to be a person of your word. I learned to really like and respect other people. I spent a lot of time alone with him on his farm and we would walk for miles in his garden. He was great at chatter and he made me feel loved and secure.
For others, grandparents were either difficult or a nonentity. Anne, a twenty-five-year-old mother, describes her situation.
My grandparents were grumpy and anxious, especially my grandmother. I hated how they treated my mom and us kids. We couldn't sit on any of the good furniture and everything was too much effort, so they seldom even made us a meal. We tried to pretend we had a relationship, but we didn't and it made us all sad. They both died a few years ago. We now realize that my grandmother was mentally ill and that Grandpa just tried to please her. The irony is that they were so miserly with their time and money, but left us a fair amount of money when they died. How sad. It would have been so much better to have had their love and affection when they were alive.
Our challenge is to understand how our experience has influenced us, and determine if our relationship with our own grandparents has enhanced or limited our own possibilities. Should I spend my time baking cookies because that is how my grandmother showed me love and affection? Will this give me pleasure and satisfaction? Is this what my grandchildren need? Is it the best way to support their parents?
Grandparents can be more effective by considering things from their children and grandchildren's points of view, rather than just reacting without thinking. Winnie describes how this approach has changed the way she bakes.
I have learned that it is more fun to bake cookies with my young grandchildren than for them. They each have their own apron and small oven mitts (although I have yet to let them near the oven!). The baking includes a lesson in hygiene: they have to wash their hands before coming near the ingredients. For me, it is a lesson in patience, making sure all are involved equally in the process, despite the age differences. For the grandchildren, the highlight is eating the batter. I should say, used to be eating the batter. Their mother recently brought to my attention that the raw eggs in batter are potentially harmful to children, so now we all focus on the finished product.
Step 2: Think about your stand on some of the key aspects of grandparenting.
Developing clarity around your role will increase your enjoyment and satisfaction as a grandparent, and probably that of your grandchildren and adult children as well. There are a number of practical questions to consider. Where two grandparents are involved, we suggest you discuss the following issues as a couple.
How often do you want to see your grandchildren? What changes will this involve?
For our friend Peggy R., this was an easy decision. Close to retirement, with her daughter living nearby, Peggy was clear that she wanted to see her daughter and granddaughters as often as she could. She made herself available on an almost daily basis, either as an occasional babysitter, or as a drop-in center for tea, cookies, advice, and admiration. This was a conscious decision that required her to put her consulting and mediation practice on hold temporarily. Peggy says, "I did so happily, knowing that being with my grandchildren and supporting my daughter as a new parent would bring me far more pleasure than working at my job."
Many grandparents are not as fortunate. Our grandchildren may live in a different city or country and our children may be unable or unwilling to bring them to visit us. We may not have a close relationship with our adult children or in-laws. We may have limited income or be unable to travel for health reasons. Despite all of these factors, the majority of grandparents make a special effort to spend time with their children and grandchildren. According to a recent survey by AARP, more than three-quarters of grandboomers saw their grandchildren between once a week and once a month despite the fact that the majority (68 percent) were still employed.
When their daughter Samantha married an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Israel, Marcy and Tony sat down as a couple to develop a strategy. They were determined that distance was not going to be an obstacle to a close and loving relationship with Samantha, her husband, and their grandchildren. Marcy talks about the decisions they made.
We decided to see our grandchildren face-to-face at least twice a year for an extended period of time and to find creative ways to stay in touch in between. This vision meant that we had to make some changes in our lifestyle. We downsized our home, delayed Tony's retirement date, planned our vacations around trips to Israel, and scheduled our family events to coincide with Samantha's trips home. We are happy with our choices and very close to our five granddaughters, despite the distance.
For many of us, putting our career plans on hold or traveling across the world to visit our children and grandchildren for a month is not an option. Nor is every grandparent necessarily interested in spending a lot of time with his or her grandchildren. Your challenge is to think ahead about how much time you want and are able to spend with your grandchildren, given your unique situation. Then you need to identify the changes in your schedule and lifestyle this will involve.
What traditions do you want to establish with your grandchildren?
Grandparents are in the business of creating happy childhood memories. Happy memories and a sense of identity are built through traditions and shared activities. It is never too early to decide what activities, hobbies, and cultural traditions you would like to engage in with your grandchildren. Will it be storytelling, baking, fishing, playing sports, playing board games, going to the library, going to the movies, or having time-honored meals and events on special days? Many of these traditions will arise spontaneously as you get to know and interact with your grandchildren. But how much better if some of them intentionally flow from your values and the kinds of activities that bring you and your grandchildren joy?
Bonnie and Dick are keen environmentalists. They combine their love of travel with their interests in bird-watching and their intent to preserve the planet's natural resources. They travel mainly on foot or by bike. They stay in senior hostels and often volunteer for short environmental projects in the countries they visit. Bonnie describes how these values are the basis for the traditions they are establishing with their grandson, Connor.
We love to take Connor for long nature walks and skating on the canal in the winter. He has been on the train to Kingston to visit his great-grandparents' farm. Last week his other grandmother told me that Connor pointed out a red bird to her and told her it was a cardinal. She thought it was a robin. Connor is only three years old.
What important family values do you want to encourage in your grandchildren? How will you do this?
What family values were important to you when you raised your children? Looking back, what would you do differently? What values would you stress now? How do these differ from your adult children's values? How do you see your role in terms of imparting values to your grandchildren? How would you encourage your values while respecting your adult children in their role as parents? While all the research supports the notion that example is the best teacher, is there anything else you can do to encourage your grandchildren to adopt the values that have been passed down as part of your heritage?
Sally, whose son-in-law has been arrested for petty theft, makes a point of modeling honesty, which is an integral value in her life.
We read books that have honesty as a theme, and I look for opportunities to show my grandkids what honesty looks like in daily interactions. I know that all kids lie from time to time, but I address it in an open and loving way when they tell lies. I always acknowledge and reward them when I "catch them" being honest.
What is your policy on babysitting?
Babysitting gives us a wonderful opportunity to get to know our grandchildren on a whole new level. We can be ourselves. We have our grandchildren's undivided attention and, more importantly, they have ours. It is also an opportunity to support your adult children in their busy, complicated lives.
Excerpted from Intentional Grandparenting by Peggy Edwards, Mary Jane Sterne. Copyright © 2008 Peggy Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne. Excerpted by permission of Fulcrum Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
This Book Is for You 2
Effective Grandparenting 4
The Times, They Are a Changing 5
The Grandboomer Generation 7
A Child-Development Approach 8
Ten Principles 9
The Last Word 10
Determine the Kind of Grandparent You Want to Be 13
Then and Now 15
Crafting Your Vision 16
What Gets in the Way of Intentional Grandparenting? 26
Questions and Answers 28
What the Research Tells Us 28
The Last Word 29
Respect and Support the Parents 31
Then and Now 32
Demonstrating Respect and Support 34
Overcoming the Barriers 38
Some Suggestions from Parents 42
When Special Support is Needed 44
Questions and Answers 46
What the Research Tells Us 48
The Last Word 48
Be Open to New Possibilities 51
Then and Now 53
Modern Parents, Pregnancy, and Birth 55
Barriers to Being Open 59
The "OLD" Method of Assessing New Practices 61
New Child-Rearing Practices and Child Development 62
Questions and Answers 63
What the Research Tells Us 65
The Last Word 68
Embrace Diversity 71
Then and Now 72
Challenges Related to Family Diversity 77
Dealing with Divorce or Separation 80
Divorce or Separation and Child Development 85
Questions and Answers 87
What the Research Tells Us 89
The Last Word 90
Be Accepting, Empathetic, and Positive 93
Then and Now 94
Grandparents as Fans 95
Some Barriers to Being Accepting, Empathetic, and Positive with Our Grandchildren 101
Resilience, Empathy, Optimism, and Child Development 103
Questions and Answers 105
What the Research Tells Us 106
The Last Word 107
Be Playful and Spontaneous 109
Then and Now 110
Playful Grandparenting 112
What Gets in the Way of Play and Spontaneity? 112
How to Be the Perfect Playmate 115
Play and Child Development 119
Questions and Answers 120
What the Research Tells Us 122
The Last Word 124
Be Consistent, Reliable, and Fair 125
Then and Now 126
What Do Consistency, Reliability, and Fairness Look Like? 127
Consistency, Fairness, and Discipline 129
What Gets in the Way of Consistent, Reliable, and Fair Grandparenting? 130
The Relationship Between Principle Seven and Healthy Child Development 134
Questions and Answers 135
What the Research Tells Us 136
The Last Word 137
Stay in Touch 139
Then and Now 140
Addressing the Challenges of Staying in Touch 142
Tips for Long-Distance Grandparenting 148
Grandparents as Historians 151
Building a Long-Distance Relationship Stage by Stage 153
Questions and Answers 155
What the Research Tells Us 157
The Last Word 158
Be Organized but Flexible 159
Then and Now 160
What Gets in the Way of Being Organized and Flexible? 160
Some Suggestions for Being More Organized 163
Safety and Child Development 172
Questions and Answers 173
What the Research Tells Us 175
The Last Word 175
Take Care of You 177
Then and Now 178
Barriers to Taking Care of Ourselves 179
Taking Care of Your Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being 183
Questions and Answers 189
What the Research Tells Us 190
The Last Word 191
You Are Not Alone 193
The Give-and-Take Between Parents and Their Adult Children 195
Grandparents Unite! 197
For the Joy of It! 198
To Learn More
About Grandparenting 199
About Child Development, Parenting, and Families 201
About Safety and Active Play 204
About Midlife Health 205
About Cyber-Grandparenting 205
About the Authors 217