Why Grandparents Are Important: A Tribute

Why Grandparents Are Important: A Tribute

Why Grandparents Are Important: A Tribute

 

Alisa Parker honors grandparents during recent Grandparent’s Day event.

On September 12, the Ecumenical Senior Center honored grandparents during an annual event held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It may be one of the only celebrations for Grandparents held in this area during Grandparents Day.

 Why Grandparents are so Important By Alisa Parker

Blessed to know my paternal and maternal grandmothers, I have come to understand the great value of having a grandparent in my life. That value was greatly enriched for me when my paternal grandmother, Verneil Parker, passed away in 1995. With her passing I learned early that grandparents are precious jewels that should never be taken for granted. Grandparents serve an important role in both the family and community at large.

Bernice Myles was honored for chairing the annual Grandparents Day.

When founder, Marian McQuade, championed the cause for Grandparents Day in the late 1970s, she recognized the need to help elderly people in nursing homes balanced with the need to motivate grandchildren to tap into the wisdom and heritage grandparents could provide. It is with this spirit that many have studied the role of the grandparent and have documented the sociological and psychological impact they have in society.

In an article by Sara Green entitled “Grandma’s Hands: Parental Perceptions of the Importance of Grandparents as Secondary Caregivers in families of Children With Disabilities,” she conducts a survey which describes the impact of grandparents.

Jimmie Roller, 42, was honored as the Youngest Grandparent, during the event. Pinkie Jefferson, age 82, was named “Oldest Grandparent.”

First, the survey found that grandparents are a common source of weekly assistance significantly more common than other relatives or friends and neighbors. Secondly, where grandparents participate, the number of other sources of support is also higher. Lastly, the article states that “help from grandparents has a positive, while the number of other sources of help has a negative, relationship to parental ability to maintain a positive emotional outlook and avoid physical exhaustion.” (Green) In other words, having help from a grandparent can be more beneficial and provide a much healthier and positive environment, than help from having a nanny or a babysitter.

In a study conducted by the Montana State University, the researchers identify four roles that grandparents play.  1) Family watchdog, 2) nurturer, 3) family historian, and 4) companion.  Although this list is not exhaustive, the research done by this university as well as other studies on confirm what most grandparents already know. They are not only important but are significant in the helping maintain the family and cultivate the generations coming up behind them. More than anything, some of these studies I believe, studies serve to confirm and validate the need for grandparents in our society and show that their role extends beyond the family setting.

Pearl Warren, 70, was honored for “Most Grandchildren” 64!

For the past two years I have had the opportunity to practice in the area of elder law as a Staff Attorney at Legal Services of South Central Michigan in Battle Creek. In that role, I have met so many wonderful seniors. In meeting these seniors, different from my non-senior clients, I occasionally find that although they are coming to me to seeking legal advice, I leave the meeting gaining a little knowledge or wisdom about life in general for myself.

What I have also gained in working with so many seniors is that the role of grandparent isn’t just limited to those biologically connected. I guess this is what Marian McQuade envisioned when advocating grandparents day.

As I reflect on my own life, while blessed to have a wonderful and supportive biological grandmother in Lois Key, there are some others, that I have no blood relation too, who have taken on the role of being a grandparent in my life. Having the helping hands of these surrogates has been just as instrumental and important in helping me to become the person I am today!

Shaping the lives of young people, being a positive influence and molding the next generations is probably the most significant role that grandparents play.  Beyond statistical data, the true evidence of the importance of grandparents lies in the countless stories of hope, encouragement and love that can be told by men, women and children from all walks of life.  I believe the late Alex Haley summed it up best when he said, “Grandparents do more for us than anyone else in the world; they sprinkle stardust in our eyes.” 

Happy Grandparents Day!

 

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Attend family reunions

Family reunions are a good way for different generations and branches of a family to come together. A family reunion gives young people an opportunity to know relatives they might not otherwise meet. It gives them a chance to create experiences and memories that can last a lifetime. Help children and youth understand how they are related to each person they meet. For example, you might say, “This is your great-aunt Phyllis. She is your grandma’s older sister.”

Tell stories

Tell stories about your life and the lives of your ancestors. Young people need more than facts and dates. They need the facts and dates packaged in interesting, meaningful, and memorable ways. The best way to create an interest in family history is by telling young people stories about real people. Fill your stories with interesting information, humorous details, and unusual facts that will capture a young imagination. Sharing family stories doesn’t have to be a big event; make it a common occurrence around the dinner table, in the car, or at bedtime.

Talk to living relatives

Encourage children to talk to their living relatives, especially the older ones. Hearing stories about what life was like in the past helps young people connect to the past. This connection brings generations together and establishes strong family bonds.

Expert Tip: Take your children with you as you visit with a relative and teach them how to talk comfortably with older people. Explain what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.

Children and teenagers can interview relatives and record the interviews on a video- or audiotape. Questions they could ask include:
◾Where did you grow up?
◾What were your parents like? Your siblings?
◾What do you remember about your grandparents?
◾Who were your friends?
◾What was school like for you?
◾What did you do for fun when you were a child? When you were a teenager?
◾What movies and songs did you like when you were young?
◾How did you meet your spouse?
◾What important lessons have you learned in your life?

For more information about conducting interviews, please refer to the lesson “How to Conduct Family History Interviews”. For a more detailed list of questions to ask a family member, please refer to “How to Conduct Family History Interviews,” and “How to Create a Personal History”.

Mapping out a family tree can be a great opportunity

Mapping out a family tree can be a great opportunity for younger children to learn more about “where they come from.” Often, seeing their immediate family drawn out on paper will help them to remember relatives better and understand those relationships of how those relatives are, well, related! For older students, mapping out a family tree also opens the doors to creative writing assignments about family as well as History and Geography lessons.
You can find diagrams already made for basic family trees, and even extended family. For a basic template that extends to great-grandparents, click here. Have students bring pictures of their individual family members, and use them along with crayons, markers, and colored construction paper to decorate their trees. Students might also write a story about their family to go with their family tree. This could mean writing about “What My Family Means To Me” or interviewing a grandparent for a story that dates further back.

For older students, have them construct a larger family tree. You may find you are hosting a competition to see who can trace back through more levels. http://www.genealogy.com, http://www.rootsweb.com and http://www.familytreemaker.com are just a few of the many websites your students may find helpful. When all their resources have been exhausted by talking to relatives and going through family records, these sites can help students locate relatives they may not have known existed! You can determine the extent to which your students pursue this project, from a basic family tree to some in-depth research.

You may find that very few of your students come from “traditional” homes where they still live with both birth parents. Let these students choose how they want to construct their family tree, as they often have a few different options. If their parents are divorced and the student now has a stepparent(s), they may want to make two trees, or only half a tree (Mom’s side, for example). You might also give them the option of including “common law” marriages, boyfriends or girlfriends.

Adopted students often regard their adoptive parents as their only parents. Encourage them to learn more about their adoptive family’s roots. Foster children may present a slightly different challenge however, and they are probably very sensitive about this subject. If you can speak to the foster parents, they will probably have the most insight as to how to address the project their foster child.

Another suggestion comes from T2T contributor Veronica Dees: “Several years ago, I ran into a “sensitive” family situation. Since then, I offer an option to use a fictional family instead of your own. It must be either from a literary work, a television show, or a cartoon. I reserve the right to refuse a substitute family for my own reasons (i.e.: the Menendez brothers and their family.) Middle schoolers love shocking adults with inappropriate choices. 🙂 Other than that, offering substitute families as an alternative has really worked out well for my class.”

Phyllis Rowland publishes Memory Catchers and teaches writing workshops. “If some children are from families who have divorced, or the chidren are adopted, now is a good time to help them find roots in establishing family traditions for the future. What will their grandchildren want to know about them?” Phyllis also suggests an exercise where your students write as if it were “40 or more years in the future, stories for their own children or grandchildren about their ancestors who lived in 1998. They try to envision the world their descendants would live in, and thereby contrast that with today. A fictitious family tree beginning with themselves and adding their dreams for family continuity is an interesting activity.” Her website is also an excellent reference at http://www.memorycatchers.com.

Additional activities you may want to consider:
Journalism – Have students videotape interviews with a Grandparent or Great-Grandparent. Not only is this a great way for them to learn more about their heritage, but the videos will become treasured keepsakes as the years pass.

Geography – Have students map their ancestors’ travels that brought them to America. Plot on a map the various towns and countries their ancestors were born in, and have them write a sentence or two about each location and why it was important.

Timelines – A timeline is a great way to chart the history of a family. Start as far back as a family’s roots can be traced, and then plot a timeline based on each major event: a move from one town to another, marriages, births, and the current events for that time and place in history. A word of caution that one T2T contributor pointed out though; personal timelines that are about the students themselves may not always be a good idea. Sometimes personal information can surface that a family may not have wanted the entire class to know about. (One teacher cited an example where a student set his family’s home on fire and a sibling was fatally burned – this would be difficult to work around in a personal timeline.)

Physical Features – A good collection of family photos makes this activity very entertaining. See if your students can determine which family members passed along the physical traits that make each student unique! Which relatives had the same shape nose or mouth? Which characteristic is repeated most often? Which characteristic will future children most likely inherit?

Name Game – Trace the roots of first names in your class. Were students’ names passed down through their family for generations? In which country did a given name originate?