Nurturing The Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship

By Sarah Johnson

One of the most important relationships for seniors is the one they have with grandchildren. GrandCamp Adventures helps families nurture the grandparent and grandchild relationship.

New data shows that more families are now living in multigenerational households and with grandparents younger than ever it’s important to establish that deep bond with grandkids at a young age—and especially so if you live apart. Often, however, it’s hard to find common interests to bridge the generations. One fun way is through GrandCamp Adventures, entertaining and educational storybooks, music, games and activities carefully designed to stimulate conversation and connect families through the grandparent and grandchild relationship, bring family members closer and create lasting and unforgettable memories.

To better understand how to nurture the grandparent-grandchild relationship we asked Patricia Babuka, the CEO and co-founder of GrandCamp Adventures, to explain the benefits to all the generations of making these important family connections. Coming from a childhood filled with family, love and laughter, Patricia wanted her children to experience the same fortune and admiration for their grandparents as a child as she did. The original “grandcampers” were inspired by Patricia’s in-laws, Margie and Reuben, and continued to be the motivation for 10 years while she and her partner Scott Schaefer were creating GrandCamp Adventures.

Why are grandparents such an important role in a child’s life?
Grandparents are often a grandchild’s strongest connection to family heritage. Grandparents are free from the day-to-day parenting, so they are able to provide a special time of uninterrupted play. Grandchildren especially enjoy hearing about the “good ‘ol days” and what their parents were like when they were little. By telling fun family stories and singing silly songs, grandparents are treasure troves of happy memories, actively passing down their family heritage to this curious generation.

Why do you feel grandchildren are so important and special to their grandparents?
Grandchildren represent the future to grandparents. Grandparents want to share their legacy with the grandchildren and enrich the children’s growing up experience with special time spent together. Grandparents like spoiling their grandchildren in a way that they never would have imagined doing with their own children. We believe it goes back to the grandparents not having to be as involved in the day-to-day parenting, so their time with grandchildren is all about fun. Spoiling isn’t necessarily about material things. The lyrics of our song “Nobody Loves Me Like My Grandma” on the “Here We Go!” Music CD convey this sense of indulgence: “Mama makes me oatmeal for breakfast, but grandma let’s me eat ice cream!”

Why is it so important they’re around in one way or another for the parents and the grandchildren?
Grandchildren love to spend time with their grandparents because grandparents make them feel like they are the center of attention and there is no one else more special. Parents like knowing that they’re children aren’t just with a “babysitter,” but that time with grandparents is a special time in which grandchildren are learning more about they’re family stories and unique value system. Our storybook, music and games within the “Here We Go!” product line provides a simple “recipe” for sharing family stories and creating new, “sticky” memories through play. This helps grandparents easily bridge the inter-generational gap and make their time together a special, sharing time.

Today’s grandparents fill a true need for the American family. In most families either two parents are working or a single parent is trying to do everything on his or her own. Grandparents represent a tremendous support resource for the parents. For example, in one family we know, the mother is on call as a doctor at least one weekend a month. Her parents come to stay with her husband to help with the three preschool children on those weekends. Even in families where there would seem to be no urgent need for the support of grandparents, parents find that involvement of the senior generation nourishes the children with a different kind of learning and sharing experience. Grandparents also can step in and give the parents a little together time away from the demands of the children. For the grandchildren, being around grandparents provides an important learning experience that is unhampered by the constraints often in place when they are with their parents. By being with grandparents, they learn to value their elders and respect what they have to offer them. Through grandparents, they can come to understand firsthand the power of family, their own family legacy and a grandparent’s love.

What are some of the drawbacks/negative impacts of long-distance grandparenting?
Long distance grandparenting keeps getting better and better with the help of technology, but it is still not quite the same as being there to wipe away a tear or cheer a hit at a Little League game. Long distance grandparents are simply not there, can’t respond to situations when their help would make a huge difference, and, because spontaneous visits are often out of the question, have to schedule time with grandchildren. Long distance grandparents are challenged to be more creative, make the most of every physical visit, use everything within their power to establish a connection with each grandchild and then stay connected.

What are some of the best ways families can stay connected despite the distance?
With huge percentages of the grandparent population online, the Internet has emerged as a key was to stay connected. Grandparents we know email grandchildren often, have frequent Skype calls and telephone for quick chats about what happened that day. We find that grandparents who keep long distance communications short, fun and frequent end up with great rapport with their grandchildren. By communicating frequently about real things that are happening, the grandchildren and grandparents get to really know one another and build solid relationship. Another great way to connect is for the grandparents and their grandchildren to share time together at a destination away from both of their homes.

Do you suggest postal communication?
Yes. Despite how sophisticated communications are these days, there is still the magic of getting something in the mail. Letters, cards, photographs sent by mail are tangible and often get saved much longer than electronic communications. A grandchild who mails a picture drawn in school to his or her grandmother is sending a real gift. Likewise, grandparents who send their grandchildren pictures of the grandchild’s parent at various times in his or her childhood, give their grandchild a treasure that’s likely to be saved for a long time.

Do you suggest online/web communication?
Absolutely! Communicating frequently boosts the familial bonds between these two generations. Grandparents and grandchildren should communicate as often as they can.

What about vacations and other great ways to stay connected?
Many members of today’s grandparent generation have the energy and resources to do extraordinary things with their grandchildren. Often grandparents will sponsor a trip or rent a vacation home big enough for their children’s family to visit and spend fun time with their grandparents. However, staying connected does not have to be expensive or elaborate. At GrandCamp Adventures, we believe strongly that it is the simple things, spending playtime with grandchildren rather than entertaining them, which make the difference. Sitting on the porch talking about the bird in the tree or playing a game together is much more important to building the relationship than putting the grandchildren on a carnival ride and waving as they pass by.

Some of best ways of staying connected are little things. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a gift that a grandparent gives a child. One grandmother we know gave her granddaughter a little flowered heart and told her that she wanted her to know that she was in her heart every moment of every day. The grandchild keeps that heart by her bed and touches it every night. Another grandparent sends her grandchildren books with a tape of her reading the book. Our GrandCampers tell us the key is discovering things both ages enjoy doing. They want experiences vs. ‘things.’ These experiences should be meaningful, alive with happy memories, continuous and frequent, full of joy, fun and laughter. They also want to pass down a family legacy and value system. It isn’t about big fancy trips. Anything can be an adventure. We recommend that grandparents actively involve their grandchildren in planning their outings, aka “adventures.” Whether it is playing board or card games, reading books together, baking cookies, going to the movies, on a nature walk or a museum, we find spending time together is the most important thing.

How does GrandCamp Adventures help grandparents and their grandkids strengthen their bonds & relationships?
GrandCamp Adventures gives grandparents and their grandchildren avenues to share time with each other, learn, and have fun. Every one of our offerings is creatively designed for interaction and sharing. All create great memories.

How will these adventures and activities engage kids and help kids and their grandparents strengthen their relationship?
When we did focus groups with eight-year-olds, they all were excited about the magic compass in the storybook and had their own ideas as to where they would want the compass to take them and their grandparents. They loved the vibrant illustrations in the book and the idea of an around-the-world adventure. Similarly, when we introduced the “Here We Go!” music CD at an outdoor event on Grandparents Day, all the kids loved dancing and wiggling to its lively tunes, and many began singing along on the choruses. Grandparents and grandchildren “play their way” to getting to know each other through their shared experience with GrandCamp Adventures. The bonds get stronger every time they greet each other with their own unique family handshake created with our Shake It Up secret handshake game.

In a like way, grandchildren and grandkids share memories, feelings and ideas as they uncover family treasures through our “Search for Longbeard’s Treasure” treasure hunt. GrandCamp Adventures’ focus is to create beautiful, high-quality products that deliberately celebrate and build the grandparent-grandchild relationship. Each product within the “Here We Go!” adventure line gives our GrandCampers all the ingredients to encourage simple and easy sharing of family stories and creating of new memories through play. This deepens bonds and has kids begging to go to grandma’s house. Because these experiences are rooted in play, they become what we call “sticky” memories.

- Written By

Sarah Johnson

Aging in Place Expert
Sarah Johnson is an Aging in Place Expert with extensive experience helping seniors remain independent and comfortable in their homes. She has specialized knowledge of how to help elderly individuals stay healthy, safe, and happy as they age. Sarah is passionate about providing quality care for aging adults, allowing them to remain in their homes and enjoy the highest quality of life.