The book Grandparents/Grandchildren: The Vital Connection by Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., and Kenneth L. Woodward (published by Transaction Publishers, 1997) was inspired by 8-year-old Billy who insisted on telling his therapists in session after session about the love he had for his grandparents and how only with them did he find a refuge of love and acceptance, without feeling guilty or sad.
Billy’s very revealing drawing is reproduced at the front of the book and is a universal image of the human family. It portrays the family as a pyramid of family connects—children supported by parents who in turn are supported by grandparents.
As a result of in-depth interviews with some 300 children as well as grandparents, it was found that the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is second in emotional power and influence only to that of the parent/child relationship.
There are four factors the authors isolated that are necessary to achieve and maintain vital connections between grandparents and children. The first two factors, time and place, are essential and without them there can be no intimacy. A child spells love, T-I-M-E. In this society of dual career parents, this is even more essential. A great way for grandparents to serve, if they live close by, is to give their grandchildren a second home while Mom and Dad are at work. This is a great way to build emotional bonds from a very early age, and I know from experience that it is well worth the sacrifice.
The third factor is commitment to the family, including a sense of family history where work is for the family, and not the reverse. A great way to promote this is by hanging pictures on the walls of the three generations, including photos of the grandparents holding each grandchild.
Last but not least is personal altruism—understanding the needs of your children and grandchildren and responding with love to them. Reading books like this is a great way to start and fits in with what God would have us do. Another good place to start is by investigating such Web sites as www.grandparenting.org founded by coauthor Arthur Kornhaber who was referred to by Tom Brokaw as "the Dr. Spock of grandparenting." Being a living sacrifice to your beloved grandchildren is enjoyable now and will pay big dividends later.
Houston South, Texas, congregation