Friday, April 29, 2011

When Grandparenting Requires The Art of Blending

The paint palette may not be our forte, but we can become artists at grandparenting our blended families. All too often in this day and age, for numerous reasons, grandparents are called upon to blend their biological grandchildren along with new family additions. When that happens, do away with the tags of “step” and “blended.” Instead, if a conversation requires you to differentiate which grandchild (or whose child) you are talking about, refer to the new arrival in the family as my “bonus” grandchild. However, this conversation should never take place in front of the grandchildren. Never introduce your blended grandkids using tags such as bio, step, bonus, or any term that sets them apart. This isn’t necessary, and generally it’s just reluctance on our part to let go of the past and accept the present.

Sometimes, an actual adoption may take place in a blended family, but often that is not the case. We just blend the families, while they may retain different family surnames. But in the heart of a grandparent, the addition of bonus grandchildren needs to be accepted as an adoption. Christian grandparents, especially, should understand how it is that adoption takes place. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were adopted into God’s family. When our son or daughter married their new spouse, they and their children became one family. God will bless us if we accept that fact, and He will multiply our love. God never shorts us on love; He just keeps giving us more.

One of the first ways to make the bonus grandchildren feel included is to set their photos about the house along with your bio grandkids. Here after, let the photos be referred to as “the grandkids.” Oh, and you don’t want to forget the young artist gallery on your refrigerator. Display “all” the grandchildren’s artwork. They’ll be proud and pleased that Grandma and Grandpa love them enough to brag on their work.

If you have long distance grandchildren and often mail care packages of love, be sure to include the entire blended family of grandkids names on the mailing label. Ask to chat with your bonus grandkids on the phone just like you do your natural born grandchildren. Listen and learn quickly what they are interested in, then draw them out by talking about these topics. If you live close, attend their school and extra-curricular activities just as often as you do your natural born grandchildren.

Be organized whether living near or far. Get a calendar and write down their birthdays and the important events in their lives.

Grandkids are into fairness, so are the parents. Keep this fact in mind when you are inviting the grandchildren for an overnighter or extended visit. The family notices and is hurt when a grandparent only invites their natural born grandchildren. If the family is too large for you to take all the grandkids at one time, you might try inviting one bio and one bonus grandchild to visit together. Grandma and Grandpa’s house needs to be the one place that all feel welcome. Remember the times in your life when you didn’t feel included. Remember the pain of feeling rejected, and never heap this kind of pain upon a child. No doubt, blended grandchildren have already experienced some pain, loss, and rejection—don’t add to it. They are children, and God will not honor our leaving them out.

Gift giving is another touchy area that you don’t want to fudge on. Plan to spend the same amount on gifts for your blended grandkids. Since older grandkids’ clothes and gifts cost more than wee tots, you don’t have to get fanatical down to the penny.

Draw the family close by being a flexible, not demanding, grandparent. Be willing to flex and change celebration times to accommodate family visitation schedules.Be opening to including a new holiday dish or tradition that is a favorite of your bonus grandchildren.

But the most important thing you can do for your blended grandchildren is balance your time and attention. Share your life and share your love. Maxine Marsolini in her book, Blended Families: Handle With Care (Moody Press) says it well, “Blending doesn’t just happen; we purposely journey into it.” That includes the grandparents, too.

Plan to enjoy your double portion of grandparenting, blending them together in the perfect family portrait. You’ll be doubly blessed!

Check out my Long Distance Grandma: Staying Connected Across The Miles (Simon & Schuster).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grandparenting--Near or Far

Today, I'm going to be talking about being a Long Distance Grandma and also being a Nearby Grandma. Most of us find that we are in both positions, and I want to share some ideas from my book, Long Distance Grandma: staying connected across the miles (Simon & Schuster). While the book was written with the LDG in mind, many of the ideas lend themselves for those who are nearby too. NOTE: You may buy a copy at any online bookstore, Simon and Schuster website, or from me.

The spring rains have arrived and the world is greening up before our eyes. Spring has arrived in Indiana. Soon, we'll have days filled mostly with sunshine, but for now there are puddles are everywhere. It is the perfect time to share weather conditions with the grandkids via skype, email, or cell phones. You can always talk about the weather. Maybe, you'll get even more creative and suggest they chart the weather for your area and theirs. You may even have a budding weather forecaster in your midst.

Since showers are insisting on sharing center stage with the sun and the wind, here are some ideas for care packages. Make those rainy days bright spots for mom and dad when the grandchildren are stuck indoors.

-Mail a box of brightly colored markers, crayons, coloring books, and sketch pads to your grandhildren.

-Create and send a box of craft supplies. Look around your house for odds and ends of craft materials: old necklaces or beads, Styrofoam plates, cotton balls, colorful craft chenille sticks, glue sticks, fabric and trim scraps, bits of yarn, toilet paper rolls, and other items.

Since the rain makes everything green up,
AND green makes me think of the Ireland,
AND thinking of Ireland makes me think
of the Irish Shamrock. . .

then this is the perfect teaching tool to weave some spiritual thoughts in your conversation. Use the shamrock to teach about the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Seeing the example of one shamrock, but three parts, helps them understand that God is three in one.

The rains also make it a perfect time for sharing books on Noah's Ark with the younger grandkids. Use the Bible to share the story with older kids. When you're sharing those storybooks, don't forget to mail or share some animal crackers with the younger grandkids.

You may want to purchase one of the many novelty items available on Noah's Ark and treat your younger grandkids. There are jewelry boxes, toy arks with animals, tea sets, key rings, and coloring books.

Then in closing,some of you may be planning spring or summer trips to visit your long distance family. I just have to share this funny.

A little boy told his kindergarten teacher that his Grandma was coming for a visit.

“Where does she live?” the teacher asked.

“Oh, she lives at the airport,” he replied. “Whenever
we want her, we just go and get her.”

Until the next post--Happy Grandparenting!