Young People Ask . . .
Why Should I Get to Know My Grandparents?
“When my mother and I had trouble communicating, Grandma helped us to work things out.”—Damaris.
“THROUGHOUT history, grandparents have been the key to family harmony and continuity.” So writes Dr. Arthur Kornhaber in his book Grandparent Power! He adds: “As teachers, supporters of parents, historians, nurturers, consultants, and even entertainers, their psychological, social, and spiritual functions were of paramount importance. I wondered how our society had possibly come to dismiss this powerful, multifaceted grandparent role.”
In bygone days, grandparents were a foundation stone of family life, particularly among worshipers of Jehovah God. The Bible commanded the Israelites to respect and esteem older ones. (Leviticus 19:32) Grandparents were considered especially worthy of honor.—1 Timothy 5:4.
Sad to say, times have changed. Long distances often separate families, and many youths have little contact with their grandparents. Attitudes have also changed. In many parts of the world, older ones—including relatives—are no longer treated with due respect. (2 Timothy 3:1-3) What used to be called a generation gap now seems more like a chasm. Many youths think of their grandparents as old and out of touch. They cannot imagine that these older ones could possibly understand the pressures and problems youths face today.
If that is the way you feel, be prepared to think again! For there is great value in getting to know your grandparents—especially if they are God-fearing. And if you have not got to know them, you may very well be missing out. How so?
A Source of Wisdom and Advice
Many young people have discovered that grandparents can serve as a shelter during the stormy years of youth. Seventeen magazine observed: “With decades of experience in living, they are often more helpful in dealing with problems than friends your age, who are struggling with the same concerns you are. You and your peers are in the throes of your first life transitions; your grandparents have weathered many such passages. They are often wise as well as smart.” This advice merely echoes what the Bible said centuries ago, namely: “Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.”—Proverbs 16:31.
True, your grandparents may have grown up in a world quite different from the one in which you now live. But you can be sure that at one time or another, they have felt the very same feelings that you are struggling with now. While you may still be relatively inexperienced in handling such feelings, your grandparents have had a lifetime in which to come to terms with them. (Proverbs 1:4) “Is there not wisdom among the aged and understanding in length of days?” asked the righteous man Job. (Job 12:12) Yes, and for that reason grandparents can often be a real asset when a youth needs some balanced advice, encouragement, or support.
Young Damaris’ grandmother, for example, lived with Damaris and her mother in the same urban apartment. “When my mother and I had trouble communicating,” Damaris recalled, “Grandmom helped us work things out. She would show me a different way of looking at things.”
Alexandria had a similar experience when her family moved and she had to change schools. “My new teacher was hard and occasionally lost her temper,” Alexandria said. Adjusting to her new school was therefore difficult for Alexandria. However, her grandmother proved to be an ally. She helped Alexandria to adjust by encouraging a more positive outlook toward the situation. “Now I like school and my teacher,” says Alexandria.
A young man in Brazil named Rafael reflects on the help that his grandparents gave him when he received some supplementary education after high school: “They gave me much counsel about association and how to resist problems with drugs.” Rafael now serves as a full-time evangelizer.
In her book Grandparenting in a Changing World, Eda LeShan relates her own experience as a grandparent. She writes: “My granddaughter called me one day and said, ‘Grandma, I need help with peer pressure.’ Some of her classmates were trying to get her to date boys, some of whom were calling her on the phone.” As a result of her granddaughter’s request for help, the grandmother was able to offer advice that provided needed assistance. You may similarly find that a brief conversation with a loving grandparent can be a source of real moral support.
Grandparents are often particularly helpful during times of family crisis, such as illness or death. After young Lacey lost her father to a serious illness, her grandmother helped her cope. “We have bonded even more than before,” says Lacey.
A Special Bond of Love
Your relationship with your grandparent may also be free of some of the tensions that youths sometimes experience with their parents. Why might this be so? For one thing, grandparents often enjoy a special bond with their grandchildren. The Bible says: “Old men are proud of their grandchildren.”—Proverbs 17:6, Today’s English Version.
Remember, too, that it is your parents—not your grandparents—who must bear the heavy responsibility of raising you “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Because their role is less demanding, your grandparents may be less prone than your parents to be critical of you. Also, one’s grandparents are usually not encumbered by the responsibilities and pressures of the daily care of a family. Because they may be relatively free of such stresses, it may be easier for them to respond to your needs or to pay attention to you. Seventeen-year-old Tom recalls the attention he got from his grandparents. They would send him “little gifts for getting good report cards”; they even paid for his piano lessons.
Of course, not all grandparents are able to provide such gifts, but they may still demonstrate their interest in you, perhaps by offering you praise and encouragement or by giving you a hearing ear from time to time. This can forge deep bonds of friendship between you. Damaris says regarding her grandmother: “She makes me feel at ease, and I can go to her and talk to her at any time because she is always willing to listen—even if I am not making sense at the time.” A youth named Jônatas similarly enjoys freeness of speech and the opportunity to talk about serious subjects with his grandparents.
While grandparents can offer you their wisdom and love, they can also benefit from your youthful energy and companionship. How so? Well, there are likely a number of ways in which you can be of help and support to your grandparents. Oftentimes, their physical strength is fading. Or they may be battling ill health. No doubt they would be encouraged if you helped them with shopping and household chores.
Many grandparents are widows or widowers and feel lonely at times. By taking an active interest in them, you can do much to help them to combat feelings of loneliness and to maintain their zest for life. Doing so is one way to follow the Bible command that you “keep paying a due compensation to [your] grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.”—1 Timothy 5:4.
No doubt about it, drawing close to your grandparents can enrich your life—as well as theirs! Maybe you have not been close to them up till now. Perhaps you want to change that but are not sure where to start. It may be that your grandparents live far away or that your parents are no longer together and this has distanced you from your grandparents. A future article will offer some practical suggestions on how you might deal with such situations.
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Grandparents can be good listeners and a source of advice and support
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Be of help to your grandparents