Editor’s note:  This is the fifth and final installment in a Meridian series by the Eyres on Proactive Grandparenting.  Richard and Linda are #1 New York Times Bestselling Authors whose most recent writing and speaking has been focused on three-generation families. In this final article, we asked them to give us their “take” on modern grandparenting and Church grandparenting—and to summarize the basics of their grandparenting101 Zoom course which begins next week and which you can register for at grandparenting101.com. 

Hello Fellow Grandparents. As we communicate together today, first of all, let us all try to learn to think beyond the typical American definition of “family” as two generations (parents and kids) and join Asia and most of the rest of the world in thinking of family as three generations, where the grandparents are the matriarch and patriarch and are involved in every aspect of the family, particularly the raising of the children.

Second of all, let those of us who are members of the Church go a big step further, and think even beyond the Asian and Latin definition of three generations; let us think of family in the divine definition of linked and connected generations within our Heavenly Parents’ family—a definition in which Grandparents play a central and eternal role.

The eternal import of the role of grandparents is clearer to we in the Church who know that eternal family is the ultimate goal.  But before we get to that, let’s think about today’s world, and about all families across this planet and about the many reasons why everyone—those of all faiths and those of no faith—should value and prioritize this position, this relationship, this privilege, and this calling of Grandparent.

Why Grandparenting matters

Good grandparenting may have the power to save the world.  As parents become more and more busy, it takes a combined effort to raise children, and grandparents who form an effective team with parents can change everything for the better.

Done well, grandparenting helps us all—It helps the parents by giving them back-up, support, and a little more time for themselves.  It helps the grandkids by giving them a kind of nonjudgmental, unconditional love and acceptance that is easier for grandparents—and may teach them values and give them a level of security that parents can’t bring about by themselves.  And it helps us grandparents by generating a kind of joy and fulfillment that is available nowhere else on earth.

But good grandparenting isn’t easy.  There are a lot of mistakes that can be made, and some of these mistakes can damage our relationship with our children.  What the world (and the Church) needs is more dedicated, deliberate grandparents who support and team-up with their children to form three- generation families where hearts are turned and values are taught. And here is the good news: that is exactly what we see happening wherever we go.

A Movement

In recent years, as we have turned the focus of our writing and speaking more toward Grandparents, we have been overwhelmed at the level of interest and priority and strong desire to play this role well.  We surveyed one large group of grandparents and found that:

–87% wanted to be “proactive grandparents.”

–79% were highly interested in getting better at giving advice without offending adult children.

–75% had high interest in improving their ability to make sons- and daughters-in-law feel like real parts of their family.

–71% in learning to be the “story link” that connects grandkids with ancestors.

–92% in building trusting, confidence-giving relationships with individual grandkids.

These are not the results of casual, semi-involved grandparents.  These numbers show how seriously we are taking grandparenting in today’s world.  We sense how important it is, and we want to do it well.

A Calling

In our observation, what is happening across the globe, and particularly in the Church is that we grandparents are realizing that 1. Our only real legacy is our grandkids, 2. We may be grandparents for 40 years—twice as long as we raised a child in our home, 3. Grandparenting, like parenting, is an art and a skill that can be learned, and (as we say in the Church) a calling from which we are never released (and which is ultimately more important than any Church calling) and 4.  That our eternal happiness depends on how well we magnify that calling.

We need to remember that President Nelson has said “Salvation is an individual matter; Exaltation is a family matter.  And that President Lee said, “The Church is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families.”

What do those two marvelous and insightful phrases mean to grandparents?  They mean everything!  They should motivate us to understand that exaltation is all about relationships, and that it is family relationships that we “can take with us”. These quotes should motivate us to prioritize our children and our children’s children above all else, and to work and pray as hard as we can to know the needs and to help with them all we can.

A Starting Point

In one recent grandparenting seminar, a relatively new grandpa asked a question that went something like this, “There is a lot to think about and I’m a little overwhelmed—if you had to boil it down, what are the three key things I should try to DO?”

We told him that we felt that grandparenting was more about being than about doing, and we turned his question around a little and explained that we thought there were three things that all grandparents should try to BE.

  1. Be the support and back-up, acknowledging the stewardship of your kids the parents.
  2. Be the “trunk” that connects roots and branches “turning hearts” in both directions.
  3. Being the unconditional love-and-confidence-giver who has a strong individual relationship with each grandchild.

#1 requires some good, heart-to-heart meetings with our children/parents where we grandparents make it clear that we want to be involved and proactive, but not to step on toes.  We should ask where they want our help and where they don’t—and let them lead in developing a three-generation plan.

#2 is all about telling stories.  We know the stories of our ancestor-roots and can become good at telling those stories to our grandchildren-branches.

#3 takes a plan, and since every family is different, each grandparent needs his or her own plan, which might include things like this:

  • Watch babies, and follow toddlers as they roam, Clap and show interest and appreciation. Get down and play what they play and watch what they watch.
  • As they are a bit older, go on individual grandpa or grandma dates. Ask questions and take notes on their answers in a “grandkids information notebook” that you keep up to date.
  • Once they have phones, have them give you a lesson on texting, or tweeting, or Facebook, or Marco Polo or whatever way they like to communicate with their friends or whichever social media they use, and ask them to show you their favorite phone apps.

A Challenge

Begin to form your own grandparenting plan with a special “two-generations-talking-about-the-third-generation” meeting. If you are the grandparent, initiate this meeting by inviting your child and spouse to a nice dinner at a nice restaurant.  If you are the parent, invite your parents.  Spend the evening discussing the kids/grandkids.  Let the parent take the lead as grandparents ask about the needs and gifts of each child and as you strategize together about what would help most and who can give what parts of that help. Take notes, brainstorm, share ideas, look for ways to teach more, share more, support more, love more.

And don’t try to re-discover the wheel.  There are lots of good grandparenting ideas and proven strategies for stronger 3-generation families out there, and we want to share ours with you and have you share yours with us. Join us in the 6-month online Zoom course called Grandparenting 101, where we will discuss a new, proactive approach to grandparenting and to parent-grandparent teamwork that can lift your extended family and all of your familial relationships to a new level.  The course starts next week, so click on www.Grandparenting101.com for more details and to get registered.

We appreciate Meridian for partnering with us on getting the word out about what we feel is a new movement of more committed grandparents, and about how we can combine and learn from each other in Grandparenting 101.