The first week of October is National Family Week, and this year’s theme is "The Grandparent Connection."
In the last several generations, the role of the grandparent in the family has gone through some changes. Today’s grandparents may not fit the traditional mould of grandparents past, but they continue to be very important in the lives of children.
There was a time when families lived close together and grandparents tended to be very involved with their children and grandchildren. In many families, this is still the case, but for others who live across the country or across the world, contact between grandparents and grandchildren can be limited.
Frequent phone calls, letters, emails and photos can keep grandparents up to date on the happenings in the lives of their grandchildren. At the same time, children get to know their grandparents even if they do not get to see each other often. When the chance arises for a visit, they are still familiar to one another.
While many families are separated by distance, the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren is also growing.
It can be difficult to balance the responsibilities of a being a guardian with the more relaxed role of grandparent. These families may face many challenges, as the world has changed since their first turn at parenthood. Grandparents in the role of parents can benefit by seeking advice and support from other parents and professionals.
The high divorce rate among couples also has an effect on family dynamics. When parents divorce, relationships may become strained between grandparents and the ex-spouse of their child. It is important for parents to acknowledge the positive impact a grandparent can have on children, especially providing a safe and friendly person to turn to during stressful times.
A poor relationship between the grandparent and parent does not need to filter down to the grandchildren. Parents may need to put their own feelings aside to allow their children the opportunity to know their grandparents. In turn, this gives the grandparent a second chance to do things differently. Unless a child’s safety is ever in question, he or she will usually benefit from having a good relationship with grandparents.
Another factor that affects many grandparents today is that parents are having children later in life, which delays grandparenthood. Being a grandparent to young children at age 50 is very different from starting at age 70 or beyond. Older grandparents may not have the same energy level as they once had, but they still have much to offer.
Parenting itself has gone through many changes within the last generation or two. Grandparents may sometimes find they do not agree with their children’s ideas about child rearing, which can lead to conflict. Parents need to let grandparents know their expectations, while at the same time respecting the right of a grandparent to "spoil" the children a little.
The actual role a grandparent plays may vary from family to family, but the significance of being involved in the lives of the extended family is undeniable.
On Sunday, Sept. 30, from 1-4 p.m., grandparents, parents and children of all ages are invited to attend Brandon’s third annual Kickoff Party to celebrate National Family Week. It will be held at Princess Park and will feature a free concert with Fred Penner and other children’s entertainment, as well as fun activities and community displays.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers
parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2012