Kids live in a different world from the one that those of us over age 50 grew up in. Life for them is so serious. There is pressure to perform, social cultures to navigate and an all-consuming media environment to balance. These demands can take a toll on a child’s health and well-being. The difference a grandparent can make in helping a child navigate life clearly shows why grandparents are important.
I was thinking about all of this recently after a visit with my granddaughter.
“Papa, I love it when you laugh at yourself,” she told me after I had made a silly comment about something I had done. It reminded me how much of a gift it is to be a grandparent—and how we can be a gift to our grandkids. All children need a little laughter in their lives, and as grandparents, we can meet this need. We can model joy and humility, demonstrating a more lighthearted approach to life.
5 Reasons Why Grandparents are Important
Grandparents can play a unique and significant role in the lives of their grandchildren. Here are five gifts that engaged grandparents can give their grandkids:
Grandkids experience unconditional love when we love them for who they are, not who we are trying to get them to be. We can coach and teach them, loaning them our wisdom so they have the opportunity to make good choices.
Recently both a youth pastor and a pastor for young adults told me they desperately needed older people to walk alongside our youth. Whether in elementary school, high school, or college, they need mentors who can help them see their world from a different perspective. Grandparents can provide valuable insights.
We can jump-start conversations by sharing a little about our pasts — what our childhoods and teen years were like, how we met our spouses, and what we’ve dreamed about doing. We can also model our values.
Of course, we may need to seek counsel from those who are younger to help us better understand the issues our grandchildren are facing. So seek out those who work with young people. Ask them how you can be involved.
Especially for Grandparents
If there is one word to define life during the last couple of years, it’s “change.” Grandchildren need stability amid societal turbulence — someone to stand with them and beside them. Family traditions and history foster stability, and grandparents can impart this information to help kids feel they belong.
When I was growing up, my favorite reads were adventure books. I loved the possibility of real adventure and often dreamed that I might have my own. My grandfather took me on several trips because he understood this need.
Grandparents can open worlds of exploration to their grandchildren when we listen to their interests. We can use our lifetime of experiences and knowledge to explore our city, a new trail, a new restaurant, a museum, an observatory, or a nearby fishing hole. We also make good volunteers, especially when serving with our grandchildren to help a ministry we’re both passionate about.
Grandchildren may need help sorting out big issues in their lives. I love when my grandkids ask me what I’ve learned about an issue. Issues may change, but God’s love and truth do not. Our lives can become an example for our grandkids about how He helps people. Our past can show how our Lord works in our hearts and in our interactions with others to refine us into wise and resilient Christ followers.
We don’t want to be people who go through life in completely separate worlds from our grandkids. Our grandchildren need real connections, people who are interested in them while they process life and face its challenges. God’s plan has always been that as we age, we become “sages” for those who are younger. If we’re not engaged in the lives of our grandchildren, I wonder if we’re truly fulfilling what God asks of us during this stage of our lives. Loving our neighbor has to do with serving those God puts in our lives. Our grandchildren are near the top of our list.
Bruce Gordon, the former president of Focus on the Family Canada, is a leader, coach, consultant, educator and pastor. This article was adapted from As Long As I Have Breath, a Focus on the Family resource published by Tyndale House Publishers.