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What Is The Role Of Grandfathers In Today's Society?

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Because of life expectancy increases, the average father can look forward to more years in the role of grandfather than ever before. The average father begins the grandfather role in his mid-forties and can enjoy that role for 40 or more years.

Technology and a fast-moving, complex society have changed families and extended families. Families are much more mobile and communication methods have become faster and easier. Divorce and remarriage have created a new type of grandfather -- the step-grandfather. There are vital contributions that grandfathers, step-grandfathers and great-grandfathers can make to today's families. These new roles are likely even more important than being the reservoir of family wisdom like the grandfathers of yesteryear. Some suggestions are as follows:

* Be a friend to your grandchildren. Spend time separately with each child. Be slow to criticize and quick to praise.
* Take an active part in the lives of your extended family. The average American family is smaller than in years past. This gives grandfathers greater opportunity to be involved in the growth and development of grandchildren. Grandfathers can be part of the family by corresponding through mail or email, calling on the phone, visiting when possible and by recognizing special occasions and accomplishments. Take time to know and relate to each grandchild. Research clearly shows the positive and lasting impact that another adult, in addition to parents, can have on a child. This is especially true in situations where divorce or death has removed a parent.
* Serve in a supporting role to parents. Be supportive in matters of discipline, affection, school work, choice of friends, family values, etc. Bestow love and appreciation. Parents are often very busy with their careers and maintaining a suitable standard of living. Grandparents, on the other hand, often have more leisure time and can demonstrate more loving behavior at the very time a child may need it. Grandfathers can help parents by supplying additional love, a listening ear and comfort.
* Be a link to the past. Grandfathers can provide a new perspective to children in helping them understand how things of today link with the past. Children of all ages need to realize there is a past, present and a future. Grandfathers can help tie these together. Stories about the grandfather's youth and the child's mother and father can help bridge that gap.
* Be a model for the aging process. Children see their parents in the middle years of life. Unless a child has access to a grandparent or great-grandparent, they miss the final stage of life -- that of aging. It is healthy and important for children and youths to see the aging process.
* Give freely of time. Grandfathers have one commodity that is often in short supply, and that is time to listen, to talk and to reminisce with grandchildren.
* Be a model of mature love between adults. Children and youths live in a period of time when many family relationships are being dissolved by divorce. Grandfathers and grandmothers are much less likely to divorce than people in their younger years, so they can portray to grandchildren that older people can still be in love. It is important for grandchildren to see grandfather and grandmother holding hands, smiling at each other, and expressing appreciation and love for one another.
* Grandparents can be a source of knowledge that loving, permanent relationships can be a reality.

Posted on 7 Jun 2001

Glen Jenson
Family and Human Development Specialist

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