University of Illinois Extension

Making Memories

Gerri Peeples, Parent Readiness Education Program Specialist

When you are both grandparent and parent to your grandkids, you have a unique opportunity to build precious memories and help the children develop practical life skills. Think of family traditions as gifts that produce the warm feelings of security, love, caring, fun and acceptance. Children of all ages will remember and be nurtured by these for years to come. Family traditions that you had when you were just a grandparent may need to give way to new traditions due to the changes in your family situation. This may not be as hard as it sounds. If you had a close relationship with your grandchild in the past, you can draw from past experience and think of the kinds of activities that best fit into your new situation. Building new traditions may help both you and your grandchild reduce confusion and stress. As grandparent and parent, you can also help your grandchild gain a sense of family history and legacies. Selected stories and activities allow you to do grandparent things and also accomplish your parenting responsibilities.

You can teach important skills and share information that builds character and strength. Is there a treasured family recipe or cooking utensil? Invite your grandchild to plan and prepare a recipe using the tool. While passing on nuggets of family legacy, you can teach good nutrition and accomplish a daily living task as well! If money is limited, explain the financial situation to the children. Then, brainstorm and implement ways to earn extra money to buy gifts for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. Before these special occasions arise, talk about how you'll limit spending and focus on the time together. Build new traditions around when and how gifts are presented. It won't take long to realize that your grandchild lives in a world far different than you did. Allow your grandchildren to help you better understand and relate to their world. Think about topics like movies, slang, fashions, snacks, music or hairstyles. Then find ways to help them see the contrast between now and the "olden days" of your youth.

Try surfing the Internet with older children. Work on a school project together. Or, try some TV talk time with a big bowl of popcorn - you can discuss characters, popular themes, music, slang, or the current youth culture. These types of activities bridge the parenting and grandparenting roles in fun and creative ways and provide insights into the world that your grandchildren experience every day. Being parent and grandparent is a mixed blessing. It involves a direct relationship with your grandchild in a complex way. Like any other important role in life, it requires continued growth and learning - and maybe even a little creativity!