For Parents & Grandparents

from Kristi

What Kids Learn From Their Grandparents

I have had the privilege and joy of working with older adults as a social worker for the past 15 years. While developing a creative expression program for persons with Alzheimer’s disease, my research uncovered the importance of intergenerational connections and activities for the young and old alike.

In the past, many different ages of family members lived near each other– and often in the same household. This provided informal and informative opportunities for children to learn from these elders, directly, through their guidance, and indirectly, through nuanced opportunities to observe, overhear and understand.

While you may have a sense that connections among generations is valuable, the research indicated that kids who were exposed or had connections with their elders developed:

  • greater empathy,
  • better manners,
  • greater respect for elders and all adults,
  • and also had less fear of the trappings that come with the aging process, including walkers, wheelchairs, and  oxygen tanks, for example.

Who doesn’t want kids with greater respect and manners? (Being able to burp thank you surely doesn’t count as manners even though my boys would beg to differ!)  A foundation of empathy is vital to developing caring young adults as they move out into the world around them.

So what is a busy parent to do to help their kids stay connected to their grandparents?

Try these three ideas, for starters.

1)      Have your kids send a piece of their artwork or their school work to their grandparents.

  • Be sure to have them add a paragraph about why they did that project, what they are learning, if they enjoyed it or not.
  • If they are in preschool, send a picture they have drawn, but stop and ask your child a few questions about it and write the answers in quotes on the art, to give a sense of your child’s personality to go with it.

2)      Ask grandparents to write a short story from their past that would be meaningful, funny or even surprising for their grandchildren to know about these older adults and mail it to your kids. If you like, suggest they focus on stories from when they were near in age to your children.

  • What did a five-year-old do in their times?
  • What was their favorite activity at school?
  • What did they do for play?

Include a self-addressed and stamped envelope, if that would help.

3)      Don’t let grandparent’s letters go unanswered! This is the best way to encourage more communication. Even if you wait some time, do have your kids write back. Suggest they write even just a paragraph about

  • one of their friends
  • a recent sports activity
  • a recent school accomplishment
  • a funny family moment

It’s a great opportunity to practice the parts of a letter (salutation, closing, etc– remember those?) and even the basics of how to address an envelope.

You’ll all reap a bountiful sense of connection, fueling compassion and understanding on all sides of the age spectrum.

Make lasting memories

Receiving letters from my grandparents as a little girl left me giddy with delight, (especially often stuffed with a whole dollar!). I treasured hearing from my grandparents and coming home from school to find that mail –something that was especially for me.

My busy, single-parent mom did her best to instill in my sister and I the value of writing and calling our grandparents. Now as a parent of two boys, I have the awesome and often daunting responsibility of passing down this value to my children.

My kids have a great role-model in my father-in-law, who is a star for sending letters to my boys- usually with a funny comic strip, pictures from the last time we were together and a handwritten note. My boys love receiving and reading his letters!

For some outside help like I needed

As much as I value the connection my boys feel with their grandparents, I often let something like finding stamps prevent me from sending anything back. My mother-in-law actually called me last year to see if the kids did in fact get school pictures because she had not received any within the year.

We’ve created Sammy the Mail Snail’s mail club to make keeping in touch with grandparents easy as can be. The subscription comes with a fun and educational packet of mail for kids and a pre-addressed and, yes, already stamped envelope to write a letter to their grandparents. How much easier can you get to build those valuable ties among generations!

by Kristi J

Parents

Let Sammy make it easy for your kids to take charge of sending cherished mail to grandma and grandpa. Don’t let your child’s special letter or drawing sit on the counter like I used to. Coffee spill. Misplaced. Thrown out with the newspapers.

“Even though it’s not that hard to find a stamp to put on the letters, sometimes I just don’t get around to it quick enough—for my kids or for my parents.”  Angie R.,Villa Park, IL

Grandparents

Let Sammy bring you more mail from your grand kids to enjoy and show off to your friends.

“I like talking on the phone to my grandkids but sometimes they are too quiet to understand or are not in the mood to talk long. Besides, letter writing is something all kids should know how to do. I love getting mail from my grandkids.”  Lorraine R. , Crystal Falls, MI

For More Information on Sammy’s Mail Club for Kids and Grandparents, click here.