Because your parents miss their grandchildren more than you can imagine!
One of the great joys of life is having grandchildren (or so I have been told repeatedly by my parents). This special connection is unlike any other. In their later years, quite often, even the strictest of adults evolve into teddy bear-like grandparents who love and cherish their grandkids unconditionally without having the everyday struggles of raising them. The Moorman & Stokes study in 2014 stated that, as adults, those who have a close relationship with their grandparents are less likely to have symptoms of depression than others who don’t. And this benefit straddles both generations.
If you’re an expat in Hong Kong, chances are that your kids haven’t seen your parents (or your partner’s parents) for a while. Even as restrictions ease and travel bubbles open up (fingers and toes crossed!), you will probably be uncomfortable travelling until you can be sure that the whole family will be well-protected – not only your kids but also the older members who could be more vulnerable. Even in the best of times, it is difficult to get your children to maintain close contact with their grandparents. For one, many of us live further away than our parents did when they had young children and secondly, the distractions are so much more for kids. So how can you make sure that they keep in touch and want to stay close even when physically apart? Here are five easy tips.
Leave The Grandparents In Charge
How many of you were coaxed (or coerced) by your parents to have children? Well, now it’s payback time! Leave your children under the charge of their grandparents for some time. This could be for date nights with your other half (or catch-ups with your besties) or even longer getaways sans kids. It’s even better is to send your kids on holiday with them. It’s a great way of building a bond and letting them learn to rely on each other.
So how can you leave your parents in charge of their grandchildren this year when COVID has upended all travel plans? Adapt to these strange times by delegating some of your (homeschooling!) duties to your parents. Pick tasks that can be done remotely or will require minimal supervision from you, such as only setting up the video call and letting them get on with it. The grandparents’ duties could range from simple storytelling to explaining complicated maths problems, giving online music classes to teaching your teenager to cook.
Over the summer holidays, I got my mother to give my daughter and two of her friends English lessons on Zoom. When schools reopened, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my daughter was spelling better and seemed to have improved in vocabulary and comprehension. I now plan to continue with these lessons on weekends. I expected my daughter to complain about the extra work but she looks forward to these classes with my mum. My mother is happy to be teaching again and loves seeing her darling granddaughter. Win-win!
Leave The Kids In Charge
Duties and responsibility can work both ways. How often have you been frustrated by your parents’ stubborn refusal to follow their doctor’s advice? Unleash your children on them. Put them in charge of checking in on your parents, challenging them to a step-count challenge (if your kids are old enough) or even reminding them to take their medicines regularly. No matter how much the little ones nag, your parents will find them charming and be willing to obey their young sergeants.
It’s also a great way to help your children understand some of life’s toughest lessons – that we all age and the older we get, the more help, care and consideration we are going to need. Last year, my then 6-year-old niece travelled with my parents and learnt some valuable lessons. She grew more considerate in her demands as she noticed that they are not as nimble as they used to be and gradually became more independent.
Share Their Stories
This is something we often do when it comes to our children. We love talking about them and the adorable and amazing things they have done. In this digital age, we record everything on our phones and instantly relay photos and videos to our parents. Grandparents love receiving these clips and you can be sure that they are showing these off proudly to all their friends back home. To make your life easier, you could get a digital photo frame for them where these images get uploaded automatically or you could use a photo-sharing app (Tinybeans is a great option) for the family.
How about sharing stories of your parents though? Our children often see their grandparents as people who are full of love but not necessarily full of life. It’s hard to imagine them in their prime – their struggles, values and everything that goes into making them unique. My father-in-law is now laid low with a bad back and my children can’t imagine him ever being very active. Which is why I make sure to include stories of his exploits as a young doctor in war times, so they feel proud of their brave and brilliant grandfather.
Read more: How To Raise Multicultural Kids In Hong Kong
Allow Them To Gift Generously
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that grandparents love to pamper their grandkids. It can be a bone of contention with parents who are trying to bring up children who respect what they have and earn their rewards. If you can’t beat them, join them! You are more aware of what your kids really want. Instead of letting the grandparents gift what they want (which may not be in keeping with the latest fad), you can allow them to buy your child what they have been desperately craving for months. It helps to have the grandparents work with you and reinforce lessons of hard work and taking care of their belongings.
As far as your kids go, encourage them to make gifts or save their pocket money to buy their grandparents something special. Their effort is what will make the present even more precious.
Encourage Special Names And Relationships
This usually starts right when your bub starts babbling. He or she probably used the cutest little gurgle for calling out to the grandparents. Why not encourage that to become a special name for Grandma or Granddad? After a few years, your children may grow out of it on their own, but for the years that it lasts, it makes Nan feel special to know that she is probably the only An-An or Angi in the world!
If you can trust your parents and your partner’s parents to know what is acceptable and within safe limits, then you can allow them to build their own special relationship. This may include your children sharing secrets with their grandparents (such as their first crush), your parents sneaking in an extra slab of chocolate for the kids, etc. As long as it is harmless and your parents alert you to anything dangerous or damaging, it’s a great way to have someone you love and trust watch out for your kids.
Read More: Does Your Childhood Affect How You Parent?