Sometimes when my grandchildren do something that I don't like, I cringe a little, because I recognize their behavior as something they could have learned from me. Grandparents are role models for their grandkids, often in ways that we may not realize. Here are some suggestions for being a good influence on your grandchildren and enriching your own life along the way.
1. Be Happy With Your Appearance.
If you're a grandparent, chances are that you have a few bags and bulges that you haven't always had. Accept them. Our young people live in a world that values appearance above almost everything else. No matter how consistently you praise their natural beauty and their inner assets, they are still getting many messages saying that they aren't perfect enough. You can give them a contrary point of view, but it starts with accepting your own appearance.
2. Be a Good Giver.
We sometimes say that there are two kinds of people in the world, givers and takers. That's an over-simplification, because givers sometimes give in an attempt to manipulate others or to control a relationship, in which case they are not true givers. Be sure that you give with a free heart and in situations where you derive no personal benefit. Volunteering can be a way to practice giving, and volunteering with grandchildren spreads the giving habit.
3. Rank People Above Things.
People are more important than things, although your adherence to this philosophy may be tested when a grandchild breaks a treasured possession. No one is saying that grandchildren should not be taught respect for the possessions of others. But check yourself. If the things that occupy your time and excite your passion are all things, you are definitely sending the wrong message to your grands. People should outrank possessions every time.
4. Be Open to Beauty.
A life without beauty would be a sad one, indeed. Fortunately the beauty of nature is never far away from most of us. We can also find beauty in music and art and make our own surroundings as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Don't be embarrassed to talk about where you find beauty and how it feeds the soul, and your grandchildren will be free to share the beauty that they discover with you.
5. Be Optimistic.
We've all experienced being around older people who consistently take the most negative view of people and events. What a downer! Be someone that the grandchildren will want to be around by looking for sources of positive energy and developing the habit of positive self talk. Besides making yourself happier and more fun to be around, you'll be showing the grandchildren a pattern for living their later lives.
6. Get Off the Couch.
It's great to cheer for your grandchildren from the stands, but it's even more important to give them a reason to cheer for you. You don't have to be on a team or even play a sport, but let the grandchildren see that staying active is important. Find a fitness activity that's right for you, and explore ways to make it more effective. If you can find activities to enjoy with your grandchildren, so much the better.
7. Have a Positive Relationship With Food.
Many family conflicts center around whether grandparents spoil the grandchildren with too many goodies, but there's a bigger picture here. If grandparents are giving non-nutritious treats as a way of showing love, that's a sign of a relationship with food that's not as healthy as it should be. At a grandparent's house, eating should be a source of pleasure and a communal activity, but always with an emphasis on good health and nutrition. Toxic food habits are hard to break, but thinking of how they might influence grandchildren may make it easier.
8. Be Aware of Tone.
When my husband and I have an argument, he often tells me that it wasn't my words that bothered him but the tone of my voice. As we get older, we are more prone to speak in a tone that may be described as peevish or ill-humored. Spend some time listening to others and notice how the tone of their voices affects you. Then strive to cultivate a positive tone. If you have to communicate a negative message, strive for a tone that is as neutral as possible. Families tend to have a distinctive culture that includes a communication style. Make yours one that will be a positive influence on your grandchildren.
9. Embrace Politics.
It's oh-so-easy to say that all politicians are corrupt or inept and recuse ourselves from the whole subject. Government is required for our world to function, however, and people are required to run the government. Grandparents can be good role models by becoming informed, shunning misinformation and engaging in civil political discourse, while encouraging our grandchildren to do the same. Of course, it goes without saying that grandparents should exercise that most precious of privileges, the right to vote.
10. Forgive and Forgive Again.
If you've lived long enough to be a grandparent, people have hurt you. If you have the wisdom that a grandparent is supposed to possess, you've forgiven them. Family members all need to practice forgiveness, or they will live in a constant welter of petty quarrels and family drama. One more thing: Most of the time, forgiveness doesn't need to be offered publicly. It takes place in the human heart.