Parent Bridge

Nurturing the kinship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Did you know that the first Sunday after Labor Day brings National Grandparents Day? Whether in celebration of the occasion or year-round, parents can play a vital role in developing the bond between grandparents and grandchildren. Parents are the bridge between the two generations, connecting their parents and children.

Strengthening the grandparent-grandchild bond is a joyful gift to grandparents. Though the nanas and papas of the world often want to be emotionally closer to their grandchildren, distance and today’s hectic schedules tend to widen the generational gap. If you as the parents want to do something special for your parents, figure out a way to give them quality time with your kids, their grandchildren. Both generations will cherish the memories created.

Bringing grandparents and grandchildren closer together is a special gift to the grandchildren, too. Grandparents have much to offer their grandchildren, such as an experienced perspective on life. Grandparents have lived through much, have seen the world change over spans of decades and can provide insight to grandchildren. But it’s more than that. Children sense when people care for them, and they know their grandparents offer heartfelt love. Children flourish in settings of love and trust, and grandparents provide this environment.

What can parents do to fortify the bridge between the generation that comes before them and the one that comes after? Of course, parents can facilitate the bond the two generations share by bringing the grandchildren to spend time with the grandparents, or vice versa. Also, parents can prod their children to be more in touch with the grandparents, whether by snail mail, e-mail or telephone conversations. The connection and continual communication strengthens the bond and creates lasting memories and beneficial relationships. After all, a bond is a kind of relationship. And spending time together and talking about things big and small is what relating is all about.

If the grandparents live nearby— great! Set aside a weekend afternoon and take everyone to a park for a picnic. Or encourage your parents and children to go to a movie together. Movies can be an excellent way to bridge generations because they provoke conversations about topics that children may initially seem disinterested in. Sometimes it’s difficult to get children to open up. But ask about a movie they’ve just seen, and children perk up. What part of the film did the kids like best? How about the least? Which character did they think was the smartest or the bravest? There are endless movie-related questions to be asked, and they offer opportunities for grandchildren to express their opinions and to then listen to their grandparents’ perspectives.

If grandparents live farther away, parents can still foster the interactions among the grandchildren, such as by asking the children to write their grandparents an e-mail or letter, or to call them on the phone. Children might protest, “I don’t have anything to say!” That’s when the parent can truly help.

Write a list of topics to spur conversations. For instance, have the child describe a school day, a favorite teacher, soccer practice, even dinner last night. If the child has an interest in video games, the favorite game can be described (probably at great length). For many grandparents, the subject of the conversation doesn’t matter. And once a conversation is started, grandparents are savvy enough to move the dialogue along.

The process of bringing grandparents and grandchildren together also brings a sense of satisfaction to parents in doing a good job child-rearing and adding value to the lives of family members. Being a bridge between generations benefits everyone.

5 Long-Distance Activities to Connect Grandparents and Grandchildren

  • Send weekly e-mails describing recent accomplishments. While these may relate to major feats like getting picked to star in the school play, small achievements can be equally poignant.
  • Exchange photographs online, adding funny captions. Ask for input on what kind of photograph would look great in a photo album.
  • Jointly research and construct a family tree. This can help a child understand his or her place in the world.
  • Challenge each other to post a video on YouTube. These don’t have to be long; a minute or two of face time in front of the camera is plenty long enough. Try to have action in the videos.
  • Collaborate on a snail mail newsletter (online or by phone) that the grandparents and grandchildren will send out to other family members. Collectively choose pictures to complement the newsletter.