Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Get Closer to My Grandparents?
“Both of my grandfathers are storytellers. Their stories help me to understand my own feelings.”—Joshua.
THERE was a time when it was common for several generations of family members to live close together—often in the same home. Close association with one’s grandparents was a way of life.
Nowadays, great distances may separate young ones from their grandparents. Furthermore, growing numbers of families have been shattered by divorce. The Toronto Star reported that “grandparents may also be victims of divorce and prevented from seeing grandchildren they love.” In other cases, the problem is that many young people simply have a negative view of older ones, seeing them as out of touch, as having outlooks, values, and interests that are very different from their own. The bottom line? Many young ones simply are not as close to their grandparents as they could be.
This is tragic. As a previous article in this series showed, having a close relationship with one’s grandparents—especially if they are God-fearing—is healthy, beneficial, and enjoyable.* A teenage girl named Rebekah says of her grandparents: “We can always laugh together.” A youth named Peter similarly says: “I’m not afraid to tell them how I feel or what my plans are. Sometimes I feel more comfortable with them than with my parents. I feel that I can talk to my grandparents about anything.”
What about you? Perhaps you were close to your grandparents when you were little. But now that you are a teenager, it may be that you haven’t done much to nourish the relationship recently. If that is the case, the principle of the Bible’s counsel at 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 could well be applied here, namely, to “widen out” in your affections toward them. The question is, How?
Taking the Initiative
‘Widening out’ implies taking some initiative. After all, the Bible says: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) When you were younger, you might not have had much “power” to do anything about the relationship with your grandparents. But now that you are older, possibly even a young adult, you may find that there are a number of steps you can properly take.
For example, if your grandparents live nearby, you might get in the habit of making regular visits. Boring? Perhaps, if you sit there in awkward silence. So get a conversation going! What can you talk about? The Bible principle at Philippians 2:4 is helpful. It tells us to ‘keep an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.’ In other words, show an interest in your grandparents. Get them to talk about the things they care about. How do they feel? What have they been doing? They might enjoy talking about the past. So ask them what life was like when they were young. Or what was your father or mother like when he or she was young? If your grandparents are Christians, ask what attracted them to the Bible’s truths.
Grandparents are often rich repositories of family history, and they are probably more than willing to regale you with fascinating stories. Indeed, you might even want to turn this into a fun project. Try interviewing your grandparents, maybe taking notes or making an audio or video recording. If you are not sure what to ask, have your parents help you work up suitable questions. Likely you will learn many things that will help you better understand your grandparents, your parents, and even yourself. “Both of my grandfathers are storytellers,” Joshua relates. “Their stories help me to understand my own feelings.”
Don’t forget, though, that your grandparents are also quite interested in your life and your activities. When you tell them what you are doing, you are inviting them into your life. This cannot help but draw you closer together. A youth in France named Igor says: “My grandmother and I like to sip tea together in a café, talking about what we both have been up to.”
What Can We Do Together?
Once you have begun talking together, perhaps you can move on to doing some things together. With a little forethought, you might discover all kinds of activities that you can share in together. Young Dara recalls: “Both of my grandmas have given me lessons in cooking, canning, baking, raising plants, and gardening.” Amy has joined her grandparents for family get-togethers and vacations. Depending on their age, some grandparents are quite active. Aaron likes to play golf with his grandmother. Joshua fishes and does projects around the house with his grandfathers.
If your grandparents are worshipers of Jehovah, it can be particularly enjoyable to share in aspects of Jehovah’s worship with them, such as talking to others about the Bible. Igor got to travel with his grandmother to an international gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland. “It was an unforgettable experience that we were able to share, and we still enjoy talking about it,” he says. True, not all grandparents are so mobile. Still, it is worthwhile to spend time with them.
A Spiritual Heritage
In Bible times a woman named Lois played an important role in helping her grandson, Timothy, to become an outstanding man of God. (2 Timothy 1:5) Not surprisingly, many Christian grandparents play a similar role today. Joshua says regarding his grandparents: “They have served Jehovah longer than I have been alive, so I have a deep respect for them, not only as grandparents but as integrity keepers.” Amy says: “My grandparents are always saying how encouraged and happy they are to see me faithfully serving Jehovah. Yet, seeing their fine example and zeal for Jehovah as pioneers [full-time evangelizers] has encouraged me to continue in my pioneer service.”
Chris calls his grandmother “the person who motivated me the most to study and grow.” He adds: “I will never forget her saying that ‘for Jehovah we have to do our best.’” Pedro’s grandparents have played an especially big role in his spiritual development. He says: “Their experience has helped me a lot. My grandparents always took me out preaching, and I appreciate that very much.” Yes, drawing close to God-fearing grandparents can help you to serve God more fully.
What if your grandparents live far away? If possible, try to visit regularly. Between visits, do what you can to maintain contact. Hornan sees his grandparents only three times a year, but he says: “I call them every Sunday.” Dara, who likewise lives far away from her grandparents, says: “They take an interest in my life, and we call or E-mail each other almost every week.” E-mail and phone calls have their place, but don’t underestimate the power of an old-fashioned handwritten letter. Many young ones have been surprised to find out that their grandparents have saved every letter that they have written since childhood. Letters can be read and reread—and cherished. So be sure to write!
Grandparents often have a very special love for their grandchildren. (Proverbs 17:6) There are many ways to build and maintain a close relationship with your grandparents, whether they live near or far. By all means, make the effort.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . Why Should I Get to Know My Grandparents?” in our April 22, 2001, issue.