This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.
I had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle. Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.
Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.
- Gift of Talent/Skills – We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand baby. Play together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
- Gift of Words – Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
- Gift of Time – Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
- Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object. Create together – Choose toys and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
- Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.
YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!
Ok, it’s true confession time. I always maintained that I would age gracefully. I have wonderful role models in my family and community who exemplify the “older person I want to be.” So what am I learning about this aging gracefully concept?
These aging adults have one thing in common – generativity. That’s not a word we use often, but it is a concern for others developed during middle age. It is a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. Adults often do this by being active in their communities.
We’ve seen the generativity idea reinforced by participants in the Mid Life & Beyond program. Enrolled communities start with study circles using a guide, A Community for People 45 and Beyond. It is an opportunity for people to talk together and find ways to make their community a place where people can live successfully as they age.
This brings us full circle back to the children. Aging adults who remain active and want to guide younger people are serving as aging gracefully role models. How does the idea of generativity fit with what you know about older adults?
Yes it’s true, children form stereotypes about the aging process and older adults. Often times children may have negative stereotypes based on limited interaction with an older generation. To help children form positive stereotypes of the aging process authors Kaplan and Crocker offer some ways to help children develop more positive ideas about aging.
Kaplan and Crocker share that it is important to do more than just ‘talk’ about or share information on older adults. It is important to share experiences and promote opportunities to engage children with older adults as well. Spending time together allows children and adults to share stories and learn more about each other first hand.
Programs that offer the opportunity for youth and older adults to do activities together are called ‘intergenerational programs’. We would love to hear about intergenerational programs you have had experience with? How has it positively impacted your children and their thoughts about aging?
Click for more information on Age-based Stereotypes
Last week I spent an evening helping my granddaughter with an assignment for a college aging class. She needed to interview a person about a variety of issues relating to aging and I was the lucky one. 🙂
Her opening comment, “this class is so boring” immediately caught my attention. I wondered if the topic of aging seems boring to most young people. Caught up in the excitement of youth, do they look at people my age and think life must be boring for us?
However, as my granddaughter asked me questions she quickly identified me as active and engaged. She said I have a job, travel, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and am involved in the community. Whew – at least maybe I’m not so boring.
Adult development was one of the final topics we discussed. That was a revelation as my granddaughter had not considered that adults continue to grow and development. So I got to thinking – do most young people assume that once you are an adult, that’s it?
All in all, an interesting discussion for both of us. I can’t wait for her next assignment in this class. I have the perfect opportunity to increase my granddaughter’s understanding of people’s lives as they age and how it is anything but boring.
When parents worry about gray hair and wrinkles or complain about getting older, should they also wonder whether their children are listening? During February, we will discuss children’s attitudes about aging. Research shows that family influences are among several factors that can impact how children view aging and older people. We’ll also look at the impact from TV, movies, books and jokes, and everyday language and experiences.
Join us as we blog about how to help children view the aging process in a healthy and realistic way.
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