Grandfather’s vs. Grandmother’s Approach
Grandfathers are different from grandmothers, according to conventional wisdom. Grandmothers dote; grandfathers complain. Grandmothers nurture; grandfathers instruct. Grandmothers hand out compliments and cookies. Grandfathers hand out quarters and advice.
As usual, conventional wisdom contains some truth. Grandfathers and grandmothers often have different priorities and grandparenting styles, but three points are worth pondering. First, the differing roles played by grandfathers and grandmothers mean more diversity and thus extra value for grandchildren. Second, the emergence of the nurturing father means that nurturing grandfathers can’t be far behind, especially considering that grandparenting is by its very nature more laid-back than parenting. Third, generalizations about gender are inherently tricky, as humans display much behavior that is not gender-typical. Still, looking at typical patterns can be instructive.90 While many grandmothers remark that with their grandchildren, they can live in the moment, grandfathers have a different experience. When they look at their grandchildren, they focus on what lies in their future.
GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN
The prospect of raising grandchildren is bound to trigger a range of emotions. Positive emotions, like the love you feel for your grandchildren, the joy in seeing them learn and grow, and relief at giving them a stable environment, are easy to acknowledge. It’s more difficult to admit to feelings such as resentment, guilt, or fear.
It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both positive and negative. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. It’s only natural to feel some ambivalence about childrearing when you expect your responsibilities to be dwindling. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren.
When you’re preoccupied with the daily demands of raising grandkids, it’s easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside. But taking care of yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. You can’t be a good caretaker when you’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. To keep up with your grandkids, you need to be calm, centered and focused. Looking after your own mental and physical health is how you get there.
Healthy Grandparents and Healthy Grandchildren
A healthy grandparent means healthy grandchildren. If you don’t take care of your health, you won’t be able to take care of your grandchildren, either. Make it a priority to eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep. Don’t let doctor’s appointments or medication refills slide. Hobbies and relaxation are not luxuries. Carving out time for relaxation is essential to avoid burnout and depression. Use your “me time” to nurture yourself. Rather than zoning out in front of the TV (which won’t revive you), choose activities that trigger the relaxation response, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
Finally, it’s okay to lean on your grandkids for help. Kids are more intelligent and capable than we often give them credit for. Even young children can pick up after themselves and help around the house. Helping will also make your grandkids feel good.
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