Today millions of children are considered “at risk” of academic failure and poor health due to economic hardship and other factors. Of approximately 24 million children under age 6 in the United States, almost half – 11.4 million kids – live in low-income or poor families. There are also an estimated 21 million children being raised by 13.6 million single parents.
In these situations, the single parent often relies on his or her parents for help. This includes providing childcare, transporting grandkids to and from school, and just spending time with the kids, giving parents a much-needed break and kids special time with grandma or grandpa.
Fortunately there are a lot of caring grandparents out there who want to help their own families and reach out to other families in need. There are more grandparents than ever before in the U.S., and we can have a tremendous uplifting influence on children, giving them love, attention and encouragement, as well as a sense of safety, security and support.
Our grandkids inevitably face difficult situations that they may not feel comfortable sharing with their parents. But they may feel free to open up with their grandparents. The key is for us to spend the time and make the effort to build a close relationship.
We grew up in a world that was far different from the one our grandkids face today, but many of the challenges are similar. Many of us dealt with peer pressure, bullying, ostracism, cliques, fights and other kids acting mean when we were growing up. Kids today face the same problems. When you can share a story with your grandchild about something similar you went through, he or she instantly knows that you can relate to what they are facing.
Often kids are not looking for adults to fix the challenges they face. They simply need someone they can trust who will listen to what they are going through and respond with love and without judging them, their friends or their situation.
None of us were perfect parents, and we should not expect our kids to be either. The more time we spend together, the more likely we are to see situations we might handle differently. Rather than telling our kids how to do their jobs as parents, I have found the best role for grandparents is to look for gaps that need to be filled, and then to help to fill those gaps.
For instance, you might find your grandchild has great interest in a subject, such as history, or ballet, or art, but is not getting a chance to explore that interest. You could plan a special daytrip with your grandchild to a historic site, performance or museum. Spending a fun day out together is one of the best ways to build a closer relationship.
When you have multiple grandchildren, make a point to spend time individually with each one. They may not get a lot of individual attention, especially if both parents work or if it is a single-parent family. This is a perfect way you as a loving grandparent can fill a gap in each grandchild’s life.
Some additional ways you can be a loving, involved grandparent for the kids in your life:
- Help your grandkids with their homework. Maybe you can help tutor them, provide an extra pair of hands for their school projects, or brainstorm ideas together.
- Support them by attending their sports, dance, and other extracurricular events.
- Take them hiking, fishing, skating, walking dogs, or doing other fun activities outdoors.
- Teach them good nutrition and life skills by preparing and cooking healthy meals together.
- Join them in creative projects, writing a story, drawing a picture, or creating a song or video together. My grandkids love to put on skits, which they share with me in person when we are together or via technology when we are apart.
- If you don’t live close to your own grandkids, try volunteering as a tutor or mentor at a local school or Boys & Girls Club. Helping kids in your own community will give you experiences you can share with your own grandkids when you get together.
Not all of us are blessed to live close to our children’s families. If you live far away, take advantage of technology to stay in touch when you are apart. If you are not sure how to use technology such as Skype or FaceTime, your grandkids may be able to teach you. Or you can get help from your cell phone carrier, other tech-savvy grandparents or younger friends.
Make a point of staying in regular touch when you are apart, and make the most of your time with each grandchild when you are together. In doing so, you will help give your grandkids the support, stability and love that all kids need to grow and thrive.
About: Children’s advocate and author Robert Martin writes books with his granddaughter Keira Ely, including the bestsellers “The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels,” and “SuperClara — a Young Girl’s Story of Cancer, Bravery and Courage.” “SuperClara” was inspired by his other granddaughter (and Keira's younger sister) Clara, who lost her courageous battle with brain cancer on Oct. 8, 2017. Robert founded the nonprofit Bridge to a Cure Foundation to tear down the deadly barriers impeding the timely development of pediatric cancer treatments and cures. To learn more, please visit www.RobertMartinAuthor.com.
Children’s advocate and author Robert Martin writes books with his granddaughter Keira Ely, including the bestsellers “The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels,” and “SuperClara – a Young Girl’s Story of Cancer, Bravery and Courage.” Robert founded the nonprofit Bridge to a Cure Foundation to fund [...]