The Value of Grandparents

This past Christmas, my parents gave each of their children a copy of their spiritual will. They explained that they wanted to clearly state for their children and future generations their values and beliefs. They hope that their legacy will be a family that continues to follow Jesus Christ – long after they are gone. While a traditional will deals with the estate that is left behind, they are more concerned that future generations will hold onto the values that are foundational to our family. This will is something that we, the parents, will keep and eventually give copies to our children.

My wife’s parents made a 10 year effort to impact lives in Haiti. During that time they saw both a lot of success and failure. Through the experience they learned a great deal. They recently published a book that tells the story of their work in Haiti and the lessons they learned. This book is a great legacy for their grandchildren. While they probably won’t read the book for many years (our children are 3, 5, and 6), it will be a great opportunity for them to connect with their grandparents on a new level when they are ready.

The reality is that grandchildren do not usually start to think deeply about the values and beliefs of their grandparents until their grandparents have passed away. I was very close to my grandparents on my dad’s side and saw them almost every week growing up. Last year I read a family genealogy that my dad’s brother put together 25 years ago. I was fascinated by the few stories in there about my grandpa and grandma. At this stage of my life, I would love to sit down with my grandparents and hear stories. I would love to find out more about what made them tick. However, all my grandparents have been gone for quite some time.

My children are blessed to have two sets of grandparents who live by values that my wife and I are excited to see passed on to our children. I understand that this is not always the case. However, even if a grandparent has made a lot of bad choices in life, they likely have some values that are worth passing on to your children.

Some grandparents are great at passing on their values and having intentional conversations with their grandchildren, while others are not. Following are a few ideas for those of your whose parents (or spouse’s parents) need encouragement in this area:

-Tell stories about your parents that demonstrate the values and faith your know that they possess. Encourage your children to ask to hear their grandparents tell the story. Let your children know that you don’t have the full story, so they should get it from the source.

-Encourage your parents to take your children out one at a time. Freeing up grandparents from managing sibling dynamics will create space for deeper conversations to take place.

-Invite all the grandparents to write a letter to your child for some milestone in their life. Ask them to include advise and insights into life that may be more significant when the child pulls out the letter years later. They don’t need to limit the letter to advice that the child will use in the next 6 months.

-At family gatherings, ask grandparents questions that you would like your children to hear the answer to. Grandparents likely won’t get around to telling a lot of stories unless they are asked.

Grandparents can play an important role in developing core values in our children that will help guide them as they grow and make decisions. Children can learn that the values they are learning from their parents have a depth and significance that goes back further and is grounded in more than just one generation. If this happens, children are likely to build a stronger foundation that will allow them to stand up to various influences and stay true to the values which they have internalized. Obviously, children may completely reject the values of their family has held for generations, but this is the exception for families who intentionally work to pass on their family values.

This entry was posted in Parenting Tips. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Recent reflections from our blog