In addition to parents, many of us owe a special debt of gratitude to our grandparents. Grandparents play a special role in our upbringing. For some, they are primary caretakers who care for children because the parents are not present or working full-time. While for many others, grandparents play an important supporting role in our lives: taking children shopping or visiting on holidays and special trips. However, many grandparents and senior citizens become lost in the shuffle when it comes to special appreciation gestures like Mother’s and Father’s Day.
National Grandparents Day, held on the Sunday after Labor Day in the United States, is an effort to recognize the contributions of grandparents, especially as they become older. Grandparents may not see their grandchildren as much as they get older, but they still enjoy the companionship. The official flower of National Grandparents Day is the Forget-Me-Not, which is poignant since it is very important to not forget about grandparents, especially as they become less self-reliant.
One of the other goals of National Grandparents Day is to learn from the wisdom of our elders. Grandparents have lived through many joyous and challenging experiences. This depth of experience gives them perspective on our challenges. There is also a great deal to learn from those have experienced periods of history that we never can. Learning from our grandparents can be a great way to learn about our own family and national histories.
It’s important to spend the time with grandparents and to also make them feel appreciated. Here are a few simple ideas for adults or children to engage with your grandparents, whether you speak to them frequently or not.
1) Ask them about their lives. The more we talk to our grandparents, the more we would be surprised to find out what their lives have been like. They weren’t always grandparents, after all!
2) Try to learn about your family history. If you do not already have a family tree, try to consult with your grandparent(s) and learn about the ancestors you may not know – find out who they were, where they lived, what they did in their lives.
3) Find a way to express your love and appreciation to your grandparent. Similar to how we show our feelings to our parents, often the simplest and most sincere expressions of feelings are much better than an expensive presents.
4) If a grandparent is in a nursing home or in ill health, visit them. No matter what age, everyone likes companionship. Sometimes senior citizens unfortunately become ignored in our society. But it’s important to make them feel loved, especially if they do not often see the rest of their family.
5) If your grandparents are no longer living, take a few moments to remember them. Think of a fond memory or funny story they told you. Reminisce about an enjoyable day or special holiday you spent with them. Those who are no longer with us can still have a profound effect on us through our memories.