As a young mother way back in 1969 I simply could not have done without my mum to help me in so many ways. From a baby that would not settle or to teaching me to survive on a budget, she was there.

Fast forward to where I am now the grandmother and what has changed? Well not a great deal, although so many grandparents are still in the work place. This may give the grandparents less time to spend with grandchildren, but if push comes to shove, they will be there. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of grandparents. 

Make sure you look after yourself

Taking care of a sick child whilst parents work and doing the after school activities are just wonderful, but one must know our limits. Grandparents must also take good care of their own needs to be an active member in an extended family. So flu jabs and general good health are very important for the grandparents. Our little darlings just love to share bugs picked up at school (and I also include other bugs in this equation too, nits to be precise, oh yes, I was horrified at 67 to have a head full). Being a grandparent has no boundaries.

Connecting the future with the past

My younger grands love favourite thing to do is look through old photograph albums (suppose they will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future with all having them in their phones or on the computer). It is a joy to sit close to them and turn the pages of the past, from colour right back to black and white. To show them photos of generations past and talk about the times and clothing  not only refreshes memories for the grandparent but impart a rich history for the children. It connects them to their family and that bond is powerful for a child’s place in an ever changing world. It secures their base and cements a good foundation.

Embrace the old as well as the new

Technology is either something that eludes an older person, they may teeter on the edge with just the basics or they envelop it with open arms. So often in this wide world of ours, distance places the grandparents out of easy reach to our grandchildren, Skype is a wonderful way to keep those connections going. And do not discount things from the past. Believe it or not,  in today’s world it is very exciting for a child to get a card in the mail addressed to them! One of my grand-daughters was given 2 swaps in an old chocolate box, she treasured them and showed them proudly to all. So I googled for swaps and found I could purchase them online. I ordered a pile, and every birthday she gets a sheet of them. Her swap collection grows and she loves them. It was also an opportunity to talk with her about our own swap collection we had as small children. 

Now connecting with teen grands, especially boys, can be a difficult thing, as they just tend to grunt when asked questions. In my early days of new computer knowledge, which was scant, I used this time to get the grunting teenage male to teach me to use the computer and low and behold he could do more than just grunt. Wonderful.

The value of grandparents

 A long-lasting footprint

One particular day rain was pouring down and he was lying on the couch as sport had been cancelled, he was just having the odd grunt with his grandfather. I walked by and said, ‘Are you two chewing the fat?’ with that he asked “What does that mean?” So for the next hour or so discussion went around about ‘old sayings.’ He learnt a lot and was just amazed, as he said himself,  “I have never heard those sayings before.’ I will lay dollars to donuts that one day into the future, when we will be long gone, one of those sayings will come to mind and he will say it, perhaps to his own children and have a warm memory of that day and us both also. Never underestimate the value of grandparents and of that footprint we leave. 

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Diane Vivian is the founding member and chair of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ. When in 1997, Diane Vivian took over the care of her small, traumatised grandchildren, she could not believe the stress she encountered. Setting about to discover what help or support was available in 1999, she found there was none! The organisation formed to meet this need salutes all Grandparents/kin who have taken in Grand/kin children and put the needs of those precious ones before their own.

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