Your life: Grandparents can be a vital part of a grandchild's life

Published: July 23, 2012

Being a grandparent who makes a difference was important to me when my first grandchild was on her way. Three books I bought 19 years ago still sit on my bookshelves.

“The Essential Grandparent” by psychotherapist Dr. Lillian Carson believes our unique contribution to our grandchildren and families are: unconditional love and acceptance, living your own life with energy and purpose, providing family continuity through rituals, photos, recipes, etc.

“Grandparenting with Love and Logic” by child psychiatrist Dr. Foster Cline and educator Jim Fay offers practical solutions to solving today's grandparenting challenges, such as being a stabilizing force during times of family upheaval.

“Grandloving” by Sue Johnson and Julie Carson offers 200 innovative and inexpensive activities to make memories with your grandchildren.

Books are good resources, but so is observing other grandparents interact with their grandchildren.

We've all known the helicopter grandparent — hovering, rotating their lives around their children and grandchildren and swooping in to rescue at the first sign of trouble.

Last week at the Science Museum, I saw a grandparent who resembled a drill sergeant, barking orders at full volume.

The ones I most want to emulate, however, are those who are good listeners and provide choices, like my friend Jan Greene, better known as GranJan.

Last week she was privy to a conversation between two of her grandchildren.

“Emmy, GranJan always brags about the good things we do,” said Ben to his younger sister Emily.

Emily replied, “I know, but I wonder what she says about the bad things.”

To which Ben responded, “I don't think GranJan thinks we do anything bad. And even if she did, I don't think her friends would put them in the paper.”

Emily and Ben then proceeded to try to remember all of the things GranJan had ever pointed out to them that could stand improvement, a conversation their grandmother said turned out to be fruitful.

Knowing GranJan as I do, I suspect she did nothing but listen and with a smile on her face say, “Hmmm.”

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at