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Investing in Our Grandchildren

Investing in Our Grandchildren

Needed:  An Investment Handbook!

When my daughter announced her pregnancy, I was not ready to join the ranks of grandparents.  My husband and I had raised three children, but the idea of being a grandparent was different.  I wished we had a manual!  (Sort of like the one I had secretly wished for when I had children!)  What would this role be like?

I had just completed my Master’s degree in Youth and Family Ministry.  I knew that I would become invested in working with children.  Sharing stories, and helping them grow in the Christian faith.  What would that look like?

And how, exactly, would those two things mesh together?

Enter James.  The first grandchild. 

James (2008)

 

One day, when he was very tiny, I was giving him a bottle, and he intently studied my face.  I fell in love with him at that moment.  The world around us seemed to fade away, and it was just the two of us.  I heard in the background, “Look at the two of them.  I’m so glad that we asked your mom to provide childcare.”

I invested a lot of my time and energy in building this relationship.  The initial outlay was to spend as much of my time as possible with him.  As he grew, I prayed about how I would share my faith with him. I felt the overwhelming responsibility of building his trust in me, and to teach him the stories that are in the Bible.  I wasn’t sure how to share my faith when he was tiny, but had to trust that our time together would yield positive results. Friends and family members said it was neat that I had Seminary training and passion – and a grandchild that would benefit from it.

Honestly, I wondered whether this was true.  We had raised three children, who were, at that time, in their twenties.  Two of them did not attend church, and the third worked on Sunday mornings.  I doubted that this little boy would be an active part of a church family. I pray frequently that this will change!

A Granddaughter!

My daughter moved back in with my husband and I when James was four, creating a three-generation household.  Things got a little more complicated a few months later, when Eliah was born.  She had a very different temperament.   When it was naptime, she was awake.  When it was bedtime, she was awake.  She wasn’t “just awake,” she was really awake!  She did not walk, she ran. I found I had to be two steps ahead of Eliah because she was one curious girl.  She got into one thing after another.  By the end of most days, I was exhausted.

James is now nine, and he is “my favorite (and only!) Grandson.”  We love to be together, and I am always looking for something new to do with him. Eliah, now five, is articulate and very busy.  She has not lost her curiosity and vigor!  She keeps me on the move as she flutters from one thing to another.

My granddaughter, Eliah (2017).
Eliah (2017)

I know that I am not the only one trying to keep up with my grandchildren.

The baby boom of the 1960s-1970s has become a grandparent boom. 

Today, there are 70 million grandparents in the nation, and 1.7 million new grandparents are added to the ranks every year!  Grandparents lead 37% of all U.S. households in this country — that’s 44 million households nationwide. And that number is increasing at twice the average annual rate of U.S. households overall. [1] 

The U.S. Census Bureau published these statistics in a report released in 2015:

  • 2 million Grandparents had grandchildren under 18 years old living with them in 2013.[2]
  • 7 million Grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them in 2013. 1.7 million were grandmothers and  1.0 million were grandfathers. [3]
  • 569,251 grandparents were responsible for grandchildren under age 18 and had an income below the poverty level in the past 12 months
  • 1 million Grandparents were caregivers had income at or above the poverty level.[4]
  • $48,016 was the median income for families with grandparent as the head of the house, and responsible for grandchildren under age 18. Among these families, where a parent of the grandchildren was not present, the median income was$35,685.[5]
  • 9 million Grandparents were married and were responsible for caring for their grandchildren. (This number includes separated couples.)[6]
  • 6 million Grandparents were working, and also responsible for their own grandchildren under age 18. Among them, 354,464 were 60 years or older.[7]
  • 666,686 grandparents had a disability and were responsible for their grandchildren.[8]
  • 7 million children under age 18 were living with a grandparent as the head of the house in 2013. Nearly half, 47 percent or 2.7 million were under age 6.[9]
  • 1 millionchildren were living with or without one or both parents, and with both grandmother and grandfather in 2014. [10]

The responsibilities of raising grandchildren have become tougher.

In September, 2012, MetLife Mature Market Institute and Generations United released the results of a joint study titled “Grandparents Investing in Grandchildren.”  According to this report,

74% of grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren are doing so on a regular basis.  Almost one-third are caregiving on a regular basis five or more days per week — a substantial commitment of time. The largest segment (42%) is caregiving fewer than five days/week on a regular basis. Another 10% are regularly providing other types of care, and 1% regularly care for grandchildren with special needs.[11]

The reasons for providing care for grandchildren?

“because I want to” or “I enjoy doing it” (58%);

“So their parents can work” (53%);

“the grandchild(ren) don’t have parents.” (4%).

Most notably, 22% of grandparents are providing care so that they can “pass down family values.”[12]

A large percentage of grandparents (41%) hold heritage and ancestry to be very important family values, and the same percentage felt religion or religious observances were very important. Highest in this area was preserving family ties, 67% of grandparents. More than one-third (36%) of grandparents felt cultural beliefs and customs are very important to pass down to generations following them.

Honestly, according to the statistics presented above, many grandchildren have access to their grandparents.  They have the opportunity to learn what their grandparents’ values are – heritage, ancestry, religion and religious observances.

We must invest ourselves into these relationships and create safe places for these conversations!  I may be stating the obvious, but this is a huge lifestyle change to take on.  But how can we do that?

How can we compete with the many demands on our grandchildren’s time?

Obviously, homework for school should be a top priority for them.

Football, baseball, basketball, martial arts programs, gymnastics,  and  a host of other sports fill our grandchildren’s time.  Boys and girls clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts , 4-H, Legos Club, Robotics Teams, music lessons, dance lessons…  The list goes on and on.  As we chaperone our children to their activities, the time spent on the road accumulates and is often stressful.

Don’t get me wrong!  I’m not saying your grandchild should not have these things as priorities in their lives.  But how can grandparents be included on the list?

Another demand on our grandchildren’s and their parents’ time is the challenge is that of navigating single-parent circumstances, or shared parenting arrangements due to separations or divorce.  Transportation between households whether it is weekly, monthly, or for holidays and special vacations has become common and normal.

The newest rival for a child’s or teen’s attention, is electronics.

Common Sense Media put together a report in 2015, which was one of the first large-scale studies to explore tweens’  (8-12 year olds) and teens’ use of the full range of media.  The study was based on a national sample of more than 2,600 young people ages 8 to 18.

Results showed that teens, on average, spend more than six and a half hours DAILY using electronics with screens, including laptops. smartphones and tablets.

The report also found that tweens spend more than four and a half hours daily in front of screens.[13]

This report was done in 2015, so I would guess that by now, the average numbers for time spent “on-screen” are higher.  These statistics demonstrate that our youth live in this massive 24/7 digital media technology world, and it’s shaping every aspect of their life. Somehow, between all the activity in their lives, they often spend far more time with media technology than any other thing.

I really struggled with how I would interact with my grandkids, knowing that there would be serious competition for their attention.  I decided I had three options:

1) Let them spend time doing everything else, and take the leftovers.  (a very passive approach),

2) Insist that they visit me on specific dates, occasions, and holidays.  (an passive approach, but a middle ground), or

3)  Make myself an integral part of their lives, so much that they would want to be with me, and miss me whether they lived hundreds of miles away or just across town.  (An assertive approach)

I decided that “taking the leftovers” meant that I didn’t think I was important enough to be active in their lives.  Definitely not true.  If I insisted on their attendance on certain days, they would feel guilty for not being there.  Not what I wanted.  And so, I ended up with the third option, being assertive about things

My methodology could be considered sneaky and underhanded. I call it selfish!

I call my daughter on Sunday nights, and after we’ve visited for a few minutes, I ask her what her schedule is like, for her at work, and what the kids are doing, for the coming week.  I have a definite advantage in moving into this pattern, since I had been the key caregiver for both children while their mom worked.  Asking about a schedule was, and has become part of my routine.

We compare notes on what is happening, and then I make my move!  Sometimes both grandchildren come home with me one day after school, or we hang out at their house. And sometimes I ask if I can have one of the kids at a specific time, on specific days.

I have my moments of “withdrawal” when it is a week or ten days between our interactions.  Surprisingly, the grandchildren complain too, when they have not seen or been with me.  It is amazing to listen to them when their beloved Grandpa is at work, and they will not get to see him before they leave!  Classic cases of manipulation go into play at this point.  “Can we stay for dinner?”  “Is it a ‘Game Night’?”  “Maybe if I do my homework now, we can stay and play with him when he comes home?” I am so glad they look forward to being with us, and missing us when we are apart too long!

Both children were in my house daily as babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  But I found I was not fulfilling the call issued in Deuteronomy 4:9:

“… be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Very rarely did I talk with them about God, Jesus, or my faith, when they were tiny.   But  I knew that I needed to take baby steps towards sharing my faith with my grandchildren.

I started with what I call “The 3 Minute Lesson.”  I would use The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor.  This Bible has a picture for each story, a basic Bible story, and 3 or4 questions.  This is a good way to begin to lay the foundation for what lies ahead – no matter what that will be.   Unfortunately, I was inconsistent with this practice.  I think that if I would have made a little ritual with it, perhaps lighting a candle or sitting in a special place, we would have been more successful.

Now that they are older, I hope to use the Arch Bible story books – (available  at Concordia Publishing House, https://www.cph.org/c-246-arch-books.aspx?REName=Books%20%26%20Bibles&plk=240  They can also be purchased on-line at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Arch+books ) There are many other children’s books available, but these are my favorites for my grandchildren who are still fairly young.  The pictures are colorful and have an imaginative modern style.

It’s also time for me to work with my grandson on learning his way around his Bible, and some of the stories in it.  Now that he has learned to read well, he can use his skills to learn the stories we all love.  This will take a different investment of my time.

The Dividends

As Christians, we hope that the things we do and say will be passed down to our children and grandchildren.  Sharing our faith is sometimes like planting and tending a garden.  We plant the seeds; God sends the sun and rain to make it grow.  We may not see the fruits, but we know that it will happen at the right time.

What does it mean to you that you are a grandparent and you value heritage, religion, and religious observances? I hope you will join me in taking baby steps to talk to your grandchildren about God, Jesus,  and your faith.

[1} http://www.grandparents.com/food-and-leisure/did-you-know/surprising-facts-about-grandparents

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10050
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10050

[3] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10056[3]
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10056

[4] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10059
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10059

[5] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10010
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10010

[6] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10057
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10057

[7] U. S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10058
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10058

[8] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10052
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10052

[9] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10001
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10001

[10] Grandparents investing in Grandchildren:   The MetLife Study on How Grandparents Share Their Time,Values, and Money  https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

[11] https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

[12] https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

[13] http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html