Parents are often reminded about the importance of “being present” with their children … that phrase can also be applied to grandparents. As grandmas we do not normally spend as much time with our grandchildren as their parents do, so we want to make sure that we are making the most of our time together. As gung ho grandmas, we can work on being present with grandchildren.
Being present is simply about giving your full attention with what is happening right now, in the moment, without wanting it to be different. It means being aware of how you are responding to your grandchild. It is staying right here in the moment, not in the past or in the present.
Modern life seems to be filled with distractions, technology, and a lot of too-much-to-do. Have you ever found yourself doing any of these while with your grandchildren …
- checking your phone or Facebook or Instagram
- watching tv out of the corner of your eye
- zoning out and not really listening to what they are saying
- being distracted by thinking of other things, like what you need to buy at the grocery store or what movie you’d like to see
- worrying about the mess they are making
- just wanting to go and have a nap
- wanting to move on to a more exciting activity
- trying to accomplish other tasks while playing with the grandkids
Well, join the gang … it happens to all of us!
But there are ways for grandmas to work on being more present with children. Here are 6 ideas that will help you in your interactions with your grandkids. You may be pleasantly surprised that you are already doing a lot of these without thinking about it, or you may cringe and acknowledge that you, like all of us at one time or another, are guilty of not being as present as you’d like.
1. Put your phone away. Turn off the computer and tv. Hide your iPad. AND make sure that your grandchild is doing the same.
It is amazing how these devices seem to turn everyone into zombies who stop interacting with the people around them. There are times for these great modern inventions (no one enjoys being on Facebook or watching tv more than me) but it is hard to create memories unless people get off the grid and talk and play together. It annoys me to see children playing in a park and their parents or grandparents simply sitting on a bench the whole time, checking their devices. It makes your grandchild feel insignificant or less important if they are competing for your attention with a phone.
2. Get enough sleep.
I have always been a night-owl and tend to stay up too late, thus I am often tired during the day. That leads to a crabbier, less patient grandma, which makes it harder to be involved and present.
I have literally started falling asleep while reading a story to my young granddaughter, Tiny (her nickname). The words were slurred and incomprehensible, and she turned around and looked at me like I was a drunken sailor… it was a tad embarrassing. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
3. Look for and recognize the beautiful.
I went for a walk this week with Tiny, her in the stroller, and the snow melted from the sidewalks but still on the grass. I was in a bit of a hurry to get where we were going (the thrift shop was calling us). But she was so interested in the snow that I stopped and make a snowball with my hands and then threw it hard on the sidewalk and we watched it explode on the ground. She looked at me me, pointed at the snow and said, “ball!” I made her a snowball, handed it to her and she dropped it over the side of the stroller onto the sidewalk. We continued to do that all the way to the store and all the way back home again. She LOVED it.
We also stopped when we heard a tiny bird chirping in a tree … then stopped for EVERY bird we heard and looked for it. We also took time observing some construction workers with a crane working on an apartment building. What a great bonding walk that was for both of us, but it would never have happened it we hadn’t slowed down and looked around.
So grandma, stop alongside the road when you see a dog or a rainbow. Slow down and talk about the beautiful trees while on your walk. Notice when other people are being kind or helping others. Do your best to share the beauty of this amazing world of ours with your grandchildren.
4. Focus on the task at hand.
The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Concentrate on the single task that you and your grandchild are doing. You can’t engage properly if you are mentally juggling a bunch of tasks.
Don’t try to manage multiple things at once … like playing a game with them while folding the laundry. The laundry can wait, and no grandchild looks back at their grandma and fondly remembers how well she folded towels. But they will remember that you played a mean game of Gin Rummy or Monopoly!
5. Really listen to them
Jessica Miller shares her experience about not really listening to her child,
“We’ve all had times like this: Our kid comes up to us, asks a question. We’re not paying attention, but out of parental guilt and/or irritation we say, “Yes,” not having a clue what we just agreed to. Next minute we look outside and see him running butt-naked through the sprinkler.”
When your grandchild asks you a question, look at them and listen intently to their words. You should make eye contact when your grandchild asks you a question. Give them a thoughtful answer. Smile at them. If you are busy at that moment, ask them to wait until you can give them your full attention. A child feels appreciated and heard when we listen to them with our ears, eyes, and hearts.
6. Join in the fun!
When we visited her on the farm, my Grandma Chubala would occasionally watch us as we played, but I never remember a time when she joined in the fun with us. I wish I had those kind of memories with her.
A gung ho grandma gets off her chair, releases her inner child, and jumps into the middle of the chaos. Start dancing to the music, let them do your hair, go fly a kite, paint pictures with your fingers, go on nature walks, shoot some hoops in the backyard, blow bubbles, and play the wicked witch in their play. Living in the moment and joining in your grandchildren’s fun is the best kind of intentional grandparenting.
I heard on the radio a contest for a Hawaiian holiday that they were giving away at a city celebration. The announcer said,
You must be present to win!
I think that really says it all when it comes to being present with grandchildren!
What are ways ways you make sure your are being present with your grandchildren? Share them in the comments below!