Despite COVID-19 and the world nearly shutting down, families living in the west have always struggled to maintain and build a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
In a world where we marry and work abroad, we are not always living close to our parents. This scenario is not ideal already and becomes more tricky when couples start their journey of parenthood.
You see, some people are lucky to be surrounded by their families, but many are not, and often, that’s the case.
Once children are born, grandparents get older; kids begin school, pandemics sprout, etc., the ability to travel and visit each other becomes harder and harder.
Between living in different cities or countries, pandemics, multiple children, aggressive work schedules, and physical inability to travel, we are fortunate to live in the digital age where Facetime, Zoom, and Whatsapp videos are accessible and free. These have been the lifelines for facilitating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
But what happens over time? We can’t stay on the phone the entire day. We must consider factors like the timezones of each respective family, daily routine, and eventually, what if there is nothing to talk about every day?
Regardless, building a bond and establishing a close relationship with grandparents and grandchildren who live apart requires creativity and strength of purpose, which is essential for both the children and the grandparents to keep a vivid relationship.
In this post, find out why building and cultivating a bond between grandkids and grandparents is essential.
This post is all about ways to cultivate the grandparent and grandchild relationship.
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Why Focus on the Relationship Between Grandparents and Grandchildren?
Many perspectives can arise when addressing this subject, which influences your decision to think about fortifying the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
Let’s look at this topic first through an Islamic lens. What proof do we have about maintaining familial relationships, especially grandparent-grandchild? Then, we’ll swift through the western perspective, touching on studies that shed light on this bond in particular.
The Islamic Perspective of Building Relationships between Grandparent and Grandchild
Now, if we look through an Islamic perspective, besides your parents and your children being the most significant people in your life, Islam recommends it.
Protecting the relationship with relatives has such significance that it has been mentioned on over 20 occasions in the Quran. In one instance, the Quran states, “worship Allah and consider no one equal to Him. Be kind to your parents, relatives, orphans, the destitute…” (4:36).
Muhammad ibn Ali (a.s.), narrates “keeping family ties purifies one’s deeds, increases his wealth, keeps him safe from disasters, makes the accounting of his deeds easy and postpones his death” (Ibn Shu’bah al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.299).
Our Prophet (PBUH) and his family are our prime examples of the strength of family. It has been narrated that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asked, “Which of the people of your house are most beloved to you? He said: ‘Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain.’ He used to say to Fatimah: ‘Call my two sons for me'” (Jami at-Tirmidhi, V1, B46, H3772).
In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) says, “Whoever loves me and loves these two, and their father and mother, he shall be with me in my level on the Day of Judgement” (Jami at-Tirmidhi, V1, B46, H3733). Here, the mentions are to Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s), Fatimah binte Muhammad (a.s), Hasan ibn Ali (a.s), and Hussain ibn Ali (a.s).
The Messenger (PBUH) has also said, “Indeed Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain – they are my two fragrant flowers in the world. (Jami at-Tirmidhi, V1, B46, 3770).
We can also look at Hadith al-Kisa, a narration of an incident whereby the Prophet (PBUH) assembled Fatimah binte Muhammad (a.s), Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s), Hasan ibn Ali (a.s), and Hussain ibn Ali (a.s.) under a cloak. Amongst many things, this narration shows us the love, respect, and passion the Prophet (PBUH) has toward his family members, including his grandchildren. Hadith al-Kisa also narrates in regards to each family member listed above “…they are a part of me, and I am a part of them.”
We often look toward the Prophet (PBUH) and his family to understand how best to live in our respective societies. There are ample verses in the Quran and hadith that demonstrate the love, bond, and ties one should hold between family members. Listed above are just a few examples illustrating the importance of family relationships, including grandparents and grandchildren.
The Western Perspective on the bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren
Although little research exists on grandparent-grandchild relationships, some studies suggest that stimulating this type of relationship can benefit both parties.
One research found that greater affinity can decrease depression symptoms for grandchildren (adults) and grandparents.
Another research shows that the relationship of adolescent and adult grandchildren with their grandparents can positively impact the grandparents’ Subjective Well-Being. Subjective Well-Being is a scientific concept that can explain internal and external factors that make a person feel fulfilled, happy and satisfied in life.
Here we see only some of the positive psychological effects this relationship has. Grandparents are a synonym for wisdom, role models, value holders, supporters, and of course, caregivers. When this relationship is established in the child’s early years, grandchildren will grow up understanding that grandparents are a vital part of their lives.
That said, these relationships don’t just flourish without watering, and that’s how these relationships can drift without intention. Parents play a fundamental role in encouraging and nourishing this relationship as the link between them.
8 Ways Parents can Facilitate the Relationship with Grandparents and Grandchildren
Parents are the connection between the two parties and must encourage this bond.
Thinking of that, I’ve gathered some unique tips to help foster and maintain relationships between grandparents and grandchildren in a fun, creative, and effective way.
1. Bring Back the Habit of Sending Letters in the Mail
Whether it be a coloring page, a note, or simply a letter, send it through the mail to the grandparents.
They are familiar with this process because that’s how they grew up and the anticipation of waiting for “you’ve got mail” increases excitement and ultimately creates memories that last a lifetime.
It is also a great habit to stimulate your kid, teaching them how awesome it can be to write their feelings on paper or draw something that expresses themselves and their feelings for the grandparents, fortifying their bond.
2. Use an Interactive Mobile App
As the old ways of communicating are harder to keep since the internet has taken over the means of communications across the globe, we might as well use it in our favor, right?
The Caribu app has an incredible concept to help kids build strong, natural, and rich relationships with remote loved ones.
Its idea is to create an interactive atmosphere using a shareable screen to make video calls and enjoy features like drawing, coloring, reading, and playing games so that the children spend quality time with their faraway loved ones.
Definitely an excellent way to cultivate the relationship with grandparents and grandchildren!
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3. Record Voices on a Yoto Player
The Yoto Player is a personal favorite. Yoto is an educational device that inspires kids to take control of their listening and learning processes.
The idea is that we can record a message, a prayer, recite something spiritual or read a book and upload it to the device.
You can ask the grandparent to record any of the things mentioned before, and once they share the audio with you, you have to upload it to the device.
Just like that, you have grandparents’ voices recorded for your children to hear over and over again on their very own device.
The idea is fantastic because it helps keep the bond alive despite the distance. Children begin remembering their grandparents more frequently as they listen to their voices while involving grandparents in a personalized activity for their grandkids.
Bonus: Right now, receive 10% off a Yoto Player.
4. Propose Themed Conversations
The truth is: sometimes conversations get dull if we force calls in.
Children might lose attention, and eventually, the calls become less and less because there is nothing to talk about more than the usual daily routines.
So, planning conversations with themed topics they will enjoy discussing can help. Doing this also allows for exchange to grow organically from there. As a parent, your role is to establish a rhythm, which will eventually continue organically and without any pressure.
Some of these conversations could be about recipes, a specific subject in school, a topic of mutual interest, or even spiritual discussions.
5. Encourage Grandparents to Teach Grandchildren a New Skill
Grandparents are often seen as people with experience, so kids can get interested in what they have to offer.
Besides, grandparents love to pass their knowledge to other generations. So, stimulating them to teach a new skill to their grandchildren is an excellent idea. For example, sewing, knitting, cooking, and gardening. There are so many skills to be learned.
I know the distance may get in the way of this one. But look from a different perspective. It can be an excellent way to engage them more with each other, and it is possible now with several resources provided by the internet.
Of course, the grandchild can also try to teach something about this generation for the grandparent. This would be a productive and fun exchange experience for both.
6. Create a Book Club Together
If the grandparents are the reading type, suggest they read a book at the child’s level to create their very own book club together.
Reading is also a great habit to nurture in your child, especially nowadays, when screen time beats reading experiences with ease.
You would be surprised at how willing grandparents are to have that special relationship with their dear grandchild. And children will be blown away when they see their grandparents taking such a rooted interest in their desires.
You can even opt for Quran and hadith discussions through this route to keep it more spiritual.
7. Send Thoughtful Gifts
Gifts aren’t just for birthdays or special occasions. Some people’s love language is receiving gifts, and as a parent, you could facilitate gift exchanges between grandparents and grandchildren.
Perhaps, start a collection of some sort from a young age. Those collections increase in personal value over time and have lasting effects and memories.
You don’t need to spend much – even a dollar store item is enough, or even a craft a child made at home that cost nothing at all. It’s all about the thought that counts. Grandparents will love to receive a caring gift handpicked or made by their grandchildren.
8. Encourage Grandparents to Share Personal Stories
Children are curious, and grandparents usually love to share stories from their old days.
So, encouraging the children to ask more about family stories and interesting anecdotes from the grandparents is an excellent way to strengthen their bond. This also shows they are interested in spending time together, and learn more about their grandparents from ‘back in the day.’
Facilitating relationships requires work, and with everyone’s busy schedule, that can become daunting. However, establishing a rhythm from an early age sets the pace, and eventually, both the grandchildren and grandparents will know precisely what they need to do to maintain their bond as time goes on. This relationship benefits all parties.
Besides, isn’t it lovely to see your parents and children grow together even with the distance?
So, be sure to stimulate the relationship with grandparents and grandchildren in a healthy, practical, and beautiful way, just like the Quran has taught us and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has shown us. In the end, we can choose almost anyone in our lives, but it was the Almighty (SWT) that chose our families.
What are some ways you facilitate the grandparent-grandchild bond?
Al-Ḥarrani, Al-Ḥusayn Ibn Shuʻbah. Tuhaf Al-’uqul ’an al al-Rasul. 1963.
“Hadith Al-Kisa, The Narration of the Cloak.” Al-Islam.Org, 25 Aug. 2019, www.al-islam.org/message-thaqalayn/vol-13-no-1-spring-2012/hadith-al-kisa-narration-cloak-gholam-hossein-masoud.
Katharina Mahne, Oliver Huxhold, Grandparenthood and Subjective Well-Being: Moderating Effects of Educational Level, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 70, Issue 5, September 2015, Pages 782–792, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbu147
Khaliyl, Aby, translator. “Jami’ At-Tirmidhi.” Kalamullah.Com, vol. 1, no. 1, 2007, www.kalamullah.com/Books/Hadith/Jami%20at-Tirmidhi%20Vol.%201%20-%201-543.pdf?__cf_chl_tk=rXseeQMhbra8TaUCN6nxS3HUi1RyZpawRk4IbZPtWqE-1646618447-0-gaNycGzNCL0.
Sara M. Moorman, PhD, Jeffrey E. Stokes, MA, Solidarity in the Grandparent–Adult Grandchild Relationship and Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms, The Gerontologist, Volume 56, Issue 3, June 2016, Pages 408–420, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu056
Sarwar, M. The Holy Quran. Sajjad Foundation, 2011.