Family LIfe

Grandparents Make a Big Difference in Today's Challenging World
by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, www.nancycarlssonpaige.org

Taking Back ChildhoodOur adult children don't always want to hear parenting advice from us, their own parents. They want to do it their own way, which makes a lot of sense to me. I think where we grandparents make a difference is in the relationships we have with our grandchildren. How we interact with them, what we do together, and the activities we encourage them to do can make a critical difference in their lives, especially today.

Our grandkids are growing up in a world vastly different from the one our own kids grew up in. These days, a host of social forces and trends is putting tremendous pressure on children: Here are just a few:

  1. Entertainment media are too often replacing active, child-centered play and social time with peers and family. Constant depictions of violence, aggression, and disrespect towards others are immersing kids in a world where "might makes right."

  2. Aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at kids are pushing a host of products, toys and values on children, teaching them to value "having" over "being" from an early age and to grow up too fast.

  3. Economic and time pressures on parents are leading them to quick-fix approaches to discipline and to rely on "electronic babysitters" like TV's, Game Boys, and X-Boxes.

  4. An overemphasis on standardized tests in our schools is robbing children of genuine learning opportunities and resulting in the loss of unstructured play, arts activities, and social time, all of which are essential to their well being.

Childhood is eroding out from under our grandkids, but we grandparents can do a lot to get it back. When we have time with our grandchildren, we can offer them activities and relationships that will help restore the healthy aspects of childhood they are losing out on. We can bring out things to do that will encourage their creativity and healthy play: open-ended materials like building toys, paper and markers, playdough, collage materials and found objects.

We can scrap the toys linked to media, the Bratz dolls, the coloring books-all of the activities that encourage our grandkids to imitate the scripts they've seen in the media that limit their imaginations and inhibit the telling of their own stories.

We can be mindful too, of the nature of our relationships with our grandchildren. We can be a presence in their lives, a person who accepts them deeply, without judgment or expectations, someone who listens completely with an open mind and compassion.

We can take time to ask our grandkids questions that encourage them to talk and to show us more deeply who they are. When we need them to do certain things, we can approach these tasks like players on the same team: "We have to get the playdough off the table now. How can we do that?" In this way, we can engage our grandkids in solving problems with us, showing them an alternative to the coercive approaches they see all around them, inviting them to experience with us a more mutual way of being in relationships.

Nancy Carlsson-PaigeAbout the Author:
Nancy Carlsson-Paige's most recent book is Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World. For more information visit www.nancycarlssonpaige.org.

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