They are a guide and an orientation as well as a source of teachings. The disposition to dialogue between grandparents and grandchildren creates ties and sharing of wisdom.
Medical advisor Adriana María Mora Londoño
Given their experience, grandparents are an infinite source of wisdom. That fills ties with value and gives more meaning to the habit of welcoming, accompanying and making them feel valuable. “He who does not heed advice does not reach old age,” says a well-known proverb. So conversation, dialogue and attention to their stories and experiences are important tools for strengthening these relations in a healthy way. Talking to them is establishing a connection with life because it is important to know where we are heading but it is equally important to know where we come from.
“A healthy relation with our grandparents allows us to know our roots, to value, honor and respect them. If I know what they are I will know what the task that corresponds to me is and what it is I should curb. It is necessary to recognize our grandparents from the totality of their humanity, with both their luminous and somber aspects in order to take on our responsibility of what I should change with love,” says Psychologist Adriana María Mora Londoño.
According to experts a healthy relation with our grandparents provides for family unity, as well as the self-esteem of the grandchildren. It promotes the development of social and emotional skills and even improves performance at school. A study at University of Boston warns that this is a two-way benefit because grandparents who are more in contact with their grandchildren present with fewer depressions and it favors their health.
They must always be the axis
In this sense, the idea exists – and sometimes comes true- that grandparents are permissive, accomplice (in a colloquial sense) that this is a way to compensate for the rigidity with which they educated their children. Even though, on occasions, this attitude is adopted as a show of love towards their descendants, the reality is that it is not such a healthy issue because this figure invested with wisdom and experience loses luster. It is fundamental to explore the idea of being flexible but not permissive. So it is convenient to read, investigate into and give them the opportunity to go back in time.
“Delving into the child’s world is easier for the grandparent because he has already lived it and has a whole lot of experience. It is easier for him to go back in time to understand what this new being is living. Sometimes we expect children and adolescents to know things they have not experienced and one cannot expect them to act as adults. Grandparents must authorize themselves to become adolescents and children again but keeping the limits necessary to understand what is happening with their grandchildren,” is the advice the specialist gives. Having said that, it is also important to recognize that they are precisely that: grandparents, not accomplices or best friends or defenders of their grandchildren when some difficulty arises between parents and children. “They are a guide, an orientation, and a teaching and they must never lose that role entailing respect and knowledge. But this must always be from a place of love and never from a place of fear,” as Mora Londoño states.
Give them their place
“These grey hairs have been earned.” Probably this is a cry of war for many grandparents, and they really deserve it. These white hairs, in addition to the many years that have gone by and the experiences we have lived are huge oasis of knowledge and learning. Nevertheless, times have changed. Families are smaller, not everyone lives close by, visits are less frequent and some grandparents seem to get to this golden age of life with less vitality.
Vitality is to be understood not only as physical alterations but also emotional issues that do not allow them to enjoy what they have gained. So the psychologist invites us to reflect, “Many grandparents arrive at this age with some diseases, as if they had not taken good care of themselves, without any gains. Human beings need to cultivate themselves so that when we reach this stage we have something to give out and that is what grandchildren expect from their grandparents. Many times elderly adults become models of fear; some of them are angry, they are not loving, they feel they are a burden, they are tired and ill; they are not happy with life.”
At the end of the day, and even though times change, this custom of taking grandparents in, of loving them, of respecting them with both their luminous and somber undertakings must remain. It is not only a matter of learning for the children but a process of healing and calm for the grandparents.
Relations in harmony
- More games: in so far as their physical state allows it, playing is a way of transmitting wisdom to the grandchildren, sharing things they like and opening to what new generations have to teach. Grandparents are called on to open their mind to the world that now corresponds to their grandchildren.
- Establishing agreements about children’s education: this process must be carried out with the children so that parents are not un-authorized in front of the grandchildren. It is clear that parents are responsible for their children’s education. There must be a harmonious and balanced agreement between grandparents and their children.
- Self-care: there are grandparents who protect their children and grandchildren more than they do themselves. Nevertheless, they must keep practices for a good physical and emotional health in mind so that the young grandchildren can learn from that.
Suggestions for loving dialogues
- Listen to each other mutually so that the grandchild learns and the grandparent feels valued.
2. Talk with humility, without idealizing.
3. Respect differences and the times in which each one has had to live.
4. Inquire into promoting interaction.
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