1. First of all, stay in touch with your grandchildren, so you have a good baseline on their personalities and development. If you live apart then rely on all the modern world has to offer: e-mailing, phoning and faxing, Skype, home video’s, photographs, shared family blogs and of course snail mail. Not only will you be ready to help if there is something ‘up’ with a grandchild, but you will have such fun communicating and being part of their world.
2. Help each child feel special. For example you could create scrapbooks of special moments for each child on special occasions, such as a milestone birthday. The scrapbook can contain your thoughts and wishes for the child as well as photo’s, special souvenirs saved from times spent together, and even family history. Each scrapbook can be very different, reflecting the needs and interests of a particular child.
3. Whether you see your grand kids every week or every three years, make sure you spend some alone time with each child. It is amazing how differently kids share themselves and even their hopes, dreams and secrets when the other siblings, or parents are not around. If you can’t do much, even a slow walk around the block will lead to good fun and a better knowledge of your grandchild.
4. Now that you have the relationship going well, it is time to become very observant. Do you see any strange or unusual habits developing? Or do you see some social changes? These could include everything from an eye twitch to excessive crying, bullying of a sibling, spending too much alone time in her room, a change in friends that gives you some concerns, or maybe too few friends. It could also include such things as becoming a very picky eater or suddenly putting on a lot of weight.
5. If there are changes as noted above, don’t react with drama or accusations. That is sure to set your own child off, and perhaps close the door to your visits and also, perhaps, perpetuate a bad situation so it will become worse. Rather, talk gently and with care and in private to your child. Perhaps say something like, ” I notice that Janet seems to spend a lot of time a lone this summer. I don’t see Anna belle and Susie come around anymore. I was just curious about this.” And then let your own grown child have some time to respond. She may appear indifferent or she may open up and share her own concerns. Your granddaughter will be best served if follow your own daughter’s lead and see where it goes. It may be painful, as you wish to change everything at once for your granddaughter. Sometimes we can only plant the seed and long after your visit you will find out that your granddaughter is indeed in counseling or working with the school guidance counselor in a peer group for social issues.
6. However, if you see a real crisis, then you have every right as family to be persistent and direct. For example, if you hear your granddaughter throwing up in the bathroom after meals, you should speak with authority (again in private) to your daughter, that she must take your granddaughter in for a medical exam. Eating disorders are real and potentially even fatal. You have a responsibility to react strongly.
Likewise, if you see one of your grand kids bullying and or physically punching, pushing hard, etc. on a younger sibling again and again, talk to your own child seriously. First of all, it is dangerous. Your older grandchild could hurt the younger one both physically and emotionally. Secondly, he could have his own emotion problems that need attention. Lastly, he could be a bully in the making and will also intimidate and hurt other children in the school yard, on the street, in the school hallways, etc.
7. Lastly, remember to share yourself with your grand kids. Just because everyone today has a cell phone, doesn’t mean the kids aren’t fascinated by the fact that your had one phone in your house when you grew up, or that the family of six drivers shared one beat up car or that you got up at 6:00 am for your paper route through town. Maybe you even had a doctor that still made house calls when someone was suddenly ill! It is the richness of your history along with your wisdom and willingness to push for the health and happiness of your grand kids that make you a great grandparent. Don’t give up your assignment! The kids need you!~