Guest Blogger, Kerry Byrne
Here we will explore three ways you can effectively strengthen your grandchildren’s resilience. Yes, a loving grandparent connection makes a positive difference.
Why Grandparent Connection Matters
Resilience is nurtured through relationships with others. Grandparents not only provide a family narrative that helps shape their identity, they are often the cheerleaders, encouragers, and number one fans of grandchildren. Indeed, grandparents connecting with grandchildren provides a key message of loving safety.
increase their exposure to people who care about them.
This is where grandparents can really shine – no matter the distance between. Grandparents care. Grandchild and grandparent connection matters to them. Letting your grandchildren know you are there for them provides another layer of emotional support – especially during difficult times.
How to Make Meaningful Grandparent Connection
1. Use Affectionate Communication
Increase your use of affectionate communication. Dr. Mansson, an associate professor in Communication Arts and Sciences Employment at Penn State University found adult grandchildren reported feeling closer to grandparents who used affectionate communication. These are expressions of love and caring, and are the foundation of feeling emotional closeness to a grandparent.
One of the easiest ways to increase your affectionate communication, is to share special sentiments with your grandchildren. Share your caring thoughts and feelings. Here are three examples:
- I feel so grateful to be your grandma.
- you are such a wonderful grandson.
- I love being your nana.
You can use affectionate communication intentionally in your conversations, letters or postcards. I encourage grandparents to write loving sentiments on the envelope in different colors of crayons or markers to give it an extra love punch. This also makes your mail stand out and more interesting to receive.
For a more in-depth look at why affectionate communicate matters along with a few more suggestions take a peek at the article in GRAND magazine. It’s a short but practical read about the power of affectionate communication, Our words can travel endless miles when we cannot
2. Offer Stability and Certainty
Be the person who provides a sense of stability and certainty. Make your communication a ritual they can rely on each week or each month. Examples include sending your grandchildren a video message every Saturday morning and sharing a memory about your time together or a funny story about mum or dad. It could also be writing a monthly letter to your grandchild. For inspiration, DeeDee, from More Than Grand, shares a year’s worth of letter writing ideas to use with your grandchildren.
If you aren’t into letter writing, a short note with a band aid, stickers or even pipe cleaners and googly eyes, to make pipe cleaner people together on a video chat, will do the trick. The possibilities are endless and it’s less about what you send, rather it’s more about doing something they can anticipate and rely on.
3. Reach Out to the Parents
Reach out to your grandchildren’s parents. Notice if there is some way you can help them right now! They also benefit from your loving communication.
Maybe you could read to or with your grandchildren at night. Another idea is to write them short stories about family memories. Use simple language so they can practice their reading. Perhaps you can play together on a video chat to give the parents a break or send a healthy meal for them on a Sunday evening to give the parents a break from cooking.
Even a gift card for a local coffee shop can go a long way to let a parent know you are thinking about them and care about them. The tendency can be to focus on the grandchildren – which is lovely – but your adult children still need their parents too!
It all comes down to being intentional about your grandparenting – especially if you are trying to nurture resilience. It’s truly a wonderful gift to give your grandchildren all year round. Happy making grandparent connection!
Kerry Byrne, PhD is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission driven business helping grandparents nurture strong and meaningful relationships from a distance. She is an aging and care research scientist and believes in the power of connecting generations to create kinder, more connected families and communities. Contact her HERE.