Life Lessons from Grandparents

by Alyssa Delle Palme

My relationship with Grandma June started when I was a baby. My mother always made the effort to bring me over to my grandmother’s house for a visit every week. When I was a teenager, most of my girlfriends would spend their Saturday afternoons at the mall, but I always chose to visit June. We had a lot in common and liked to go out for lunch or catch a movie together. Once we were late to see a romantic comedy, so I quickly scanned the movie titles at the box office and ordered two tickets for Pineapple Express. Little did I know the movie was a stoner comedy about a marijuana dealer on the run. Let’s just say, my 80-year-old Catholic grandmother was not impressed!

Alyssa and her Grandma June.

When I went off to college, we spoke over the phone and wrote each other letters every week. She appreciated my handwritten notes and loved how I decorated the envelope with #1 GRANDMA stickers because she thought it impressed the mailman. My grandmother died a few years ago and I miss her beyond words. Our relationship taught me that grandparents have so much to offer. Not only do they teach you about the good ole’ days, but they teach you about compassion and empathy for the elderly. Spending a lot of time with June showed me first-hand the difficulties seniors face every day.

Henry Debono meets his great-grandmother, Margaret Delle Palme, for the first time.

My son, Henry, is only two years old, but I am already encouraging him to connect with his grandparents. Luckily for him, two of his grandparents live right around the corner and his great-grandmother is only a short drive away. However, many grandparents live far from their grandchildren. The good news is there are lots of ways to stay connected. First time mom Rachael Brown says just because her family doesn’t live close enough for convenient visits doesn’t mean her parents aren’t involved in her daughter’s life.  

“My mom and daughter FaceTime almost daily. They have songs they sing together, they read books and practice animal noises—all while being almost five hours apart.”

Brown says there is no shyness or awkwardness when her daughter, Jackie, sees her grandparents every couple of months. “She is so used to seeing them and hearing their voices.”

If grandparents aren’t tech-savvy, that doesn’t mean they can’t maintain a close relationship with their grandchildren. Traditional methods of communication such as snail mail and telephone calls can be successful too.

These days, grandparents are often called upon to help care for their grandchildren. Sarah Niman, a mother of four, says that was her sneaky motive for moving back to Ottawa. “We moved closer to home last year so that our children and parents could enjoy more of each other and experience the grandparent-grandchild dynamic on a regular basis.”

Niman says the grandparents take turns babysitting and often come over to lend a hand. “What we see is that our kids’ sense of belonging is extended beyond their household, which fosters a sense of trust and optimism in the world outside our doors.”

A great way to nurture the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is through shared activities. Niman says elaborate plans aren’t necessary. “All the grandparents seem to enjoy going for walks in the woods with the kids, trips to the park, days at the cottage, taking them to concerts, plays and festivals, tobogganing and coming over for Sunday supper.”  

The possibilities for bonding are endless.

Not every family has grandparents who are willing or able to stay connected to the grandkids. Still, there are ways to make meaningful connections with elders. Why not look into volunteering, as a family, at a local retirement or nursing home? Adopting a grandparent can be very rewarding. For starters, the children will learn that their elders must be treated with dignity and respect. If your family is lucky enough to include eager grandparents, enjoy the luxury. And make the effort to nurture a meaningful relationship; the benefits are priceless.

            A strong bond between grandchildren and grandparents can have a positive impact on all their lives. Grandparents serve as excellent role models. They also offer wisdom and a unique kind of love that can build children’s confidence. At the same time, that close relationship keeps grandparents active, allows them to see the world through younger eyes and helps them feel needed and appreciated. The best part is that grandparents add so much love to a child’s life. Grandparents really are grand!




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