Family Forte: Strengthening With Grandmuffins
by: Topher Wiles
I heard a new endearing term today, “Grandmuffin.” This morning I was privileged to receive a little face-to-face time with a sweet couple of the aging Baby Boomer generation and heard a story that broadened my smile. When their kids shared with them the exciting news of pregnancy they offered a variation of the old “bun in the oven” metaphor and said, “We’ve got a muffin in the oven,” referring to the expectant grandbaby. The expectant grandfather turned to the grandmother and opined, I guess that makes you the “Grandmuffin.”
Whether you call them Grandmother, Peepaw, Baba, Nana, Geepa, Meme, or Grandmuffin, they matter in strength of the family. In a 2013 article titled “The Vital Importance of the Grandparent-Grandchild Bond” medical doctor Mary Gavin states, “Grandparents provide children with a sense of safety and protection, a link to their cultural heritage and family history, and a companion in play and exploration.” Roma Hanks PhD in a 1997 article shared, “It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century. Today, there is a growing alliance of grandparents who will positively influence the lives of their grandchildren and younger generations in their society, some by providing urgently needed daily care, others by building deep emotional connections with their grandchildren.” Writer Ami Albernaz of The Boston Globe wrote in a 2015 piece, “Researches found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups.” An Oxford University study of children ages 11-16 found that close grandparent-grandchild relationships were associated with benefits including fewer emotional/behavioral problems and fewer difficulties with peers. All those studies point to the same idea, relationships with Grandmuffins are important for family forte!
How can you strengthen those relationships? It does take a purposeful effort, but you can do it. Here are a few ideas for you to consider, especially during the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The National Association for the Education of Young Children lists these five ideas.
· Suggest grandparents share family stories with your children. Children at all ages are fascinated by family history and cherish vivid anecdotes that educate and entertain. Sharing “when I was your age…” stories are always a great place to start as these stories tend to be the most remembered and passed on.
· Remind your children to always tell their grandparents “Thanks” and encourage them to make thank you drawings and notes when they receive gifts. All people benefit from feeling recognized, worthwhile and loved.
· Encourage your children write to their grandparents (old-school) and send notes, cards, and drawings. Putting effort into a hand-written card or drawing reflects time, effort, and thoughtfulness. And it’s still a special surprise for grandparents to receive notes in the mailbox.
· Children and grandparents can also connect through technology, and if grandparents aren’t comfortable online, grandkids can help them learn the new school. Kids and grandparents will enjoy the bond created as they share and look at family photos online or connect on Skype - a great way to keep in touch when you don’t live in the same town.
· Encourage your children and parents to share their hobbies and interests with each other. While times have certainly changed, we share plenty of common pastimes. Watching ball games, cooking together, or going for a nature walk never goes out of style. When kids and grandparents find common interests, their bond will grow.
Here are a few other ideas that our own family has experienced that blesses us all.
· When kids are doing school history projects, encourage them to use grandparents for research. I salivated for stories from “Pa” about his time serving the Army in World War II.
· Let your young kids indulge in fascinations about tractors, farming, or button factories; whatever grandparents invested their time and energy into when they were younger. Great-Grandpa invested a lot of laptime with Gabriel looking through old tractor calendars before he passed away. Gabriel today can still spot the differences between an Allis Chalmers and Massey Ferguson!
· Honor grandparents by making their recipes for Easter, birthdays, or Christmas. Granny made an apple salad every Easter, a family tradition we have preserved that helps us talk about and remember her at holidays.
· Invest time as a parent to call the grandparents yourself to share things such as, “Gabriel and I made biscuits today, which reminded me of times when you and I made them when I was little.” Put effort into connecting the generations and watch relationships grow.
· Make sure to display photos in your home not just of your kids, but also of previous generations to promote conversations and rememberings.
While fostering relationships and connections between family generations does take purposeful effort, we believe that the energy and time invested will see your family reaping great dividends in overall strength and help, now and for time to come. In Moses’ great address near the end of his life to the people he guided as the children of God, he gives this beautiful parting advice to strengthen them on their way to the promised land, “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” – Deuteronomy 32:7
May your family be strengthened and blessed as you remember the Grandmuffins today!