the role of a grandparent

Building a strong grandparent grandchild relationship

Grandparents have a very special role in the development of academically successful, psychologically sound, self-confident children.

Traditionally, patient, loving and supportive grandparents have served as a safety net for children -- helping them to better manage stressors like poverty; absent, inconsistent or ill-suited parents; and the everyday challenges of school, social or home life.

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As society has become more mobile, however, extended families often become dispersed and grandparents can not always be as physically available to the grandchildren as we'd like. This is unfortunate! Grandparents are uniquely qualified to help children understand and appreciate history and continuity; develop skills like reading, story telling and game playing; foster a sense of belonging; share interests, talents and skills; and just be trusted friends.

This makes it all the more important that time be scheduled for the grandparent-child relationship to be developed and nurtured -- whether over the phone, by email, texting or letter writing or in person via regular visits. (If you do not have biological grandchildren of your own, you can still make a big impression in a little person's life by serving as a "surrogate" grandparent by volunteering your time to individual children or youth programs.)

You can learn more about the important role of grandparenting at:

Planning a vacation with the grandchildren

If you're a grandparent, a vacation might be the perfect opportunity to spend time with your grand kids and reconnect if distance and schedules keep you from seeing them as often as you'd like. More and more people are taking part in this "intergeneration travel." In fact, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, grandparents traveling with their grandkids make up about 7% of U.S. adult leisure travelers.

Prearranged trips

First, decide where you want to go. Amusement parks, national parks and other child-friendly destinations tend to be crowded during spring break so you must determine if you wish to brave the crowds. If you prefer something more organized but don't want to deal with all the details, consider a prearranged trip.

Many organizations specialize in intergeneration trips and offer both domestic and international educational destinations, where you can spend quality time with your grandchildren while learning about new places, people, activities -and each other! Companies specializing in such trips include Generations Touring Company, Grandtravel, and Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel). Trips include everything from exploring the Galapagos Islands to roaming the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Volunteer vacations

If volunteering appeals to you, consider a volunteer vacation. You can bond with your grandchildren through activities for a common cause. Be sure to take the children's age, skill level and maturity level into consideration when planning a volunteer vacation with them. For information about opportunities, try Volunteer Abroad Opportunities ( and Want to stay closer to home? Contact your local volunteer center to find the opportunity that fits you and your family's needs.

Travel to-dos

What's perhaps the most rewarding aspect of intergeneration travel? The memories. The trip will remain in their memories long after the bags are unpacked! Help them keep the memories fresh by taking pictures, videotaping and journaling. Perhaps follow up your trip with a scrapbooking party.

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