Whether they live nearby or far away, grandparents often play a vital but overlooked role in the lives of their grandchildren. Some pitch in by offering after-school childcare, others take the kids for summer vacations or fluff up their college funds. But whatever role grandparents occupy, the holidays are a time when everyone can settle into their roles and enjoy the comforts of being who they are within their family. The best things grandparents give their grandkids during the holidays aren't gifts wrapped up in boxes, but they're the best gifts of all.
Grandparents help to bridge the gap between their immediate family and recent ancestors. And because grandparents occupy a second tier of proximity to their children's children, they are often able to communicate differently and about different things than parents can, according to Parenting. The relationship is inherently different from the ones a child develops with members of her nuclear family, and the distance is actually very helpful to grandchildren, said New York City-based psychotherapist Kathryn Smerling.
"It's very, very interesting, but people say they're better grandparents than they were parents," she says in an interview with Romper. "They have more time and see things from a perspective that you don’t see in the moment when you're parenting, and there’s a wisdom that comes from age and experience."
The holidays are a wonderful time for grandparents to strengthen bonds and relay a sense of ritual and continuity with children while their own children go mad with preparations. And wouldn't it be a welcome distraction for the kids to have their own holiday traditions with Grandma and Grandpa? Whether it's a weekend trip so Mom and Dad can finish Christmas shopping in peace or a baking marathon where kids help Grandma churn out Old World treats, the holidays are a wonderful time for grandparents and grandchildren to solidify their bond and learn about each other.
"Grandparents bring a lot of pure love, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a material kind of thing," says Smerling. "It can be a ritual of baking or making Christmas gifts or decorating the tree or lighting Hanukkah candles. Those are very, very special times that children don’t forget that enhance the purity of those relationships in many ways."
And what children take away from those relationships will stay with them for many, many holiday seasons to come.
Isn't it easy to forget the magic of Christmas actually isn't derived from the glow of a brand new device? Since grandparents aren't stressed about creating holiday magic for their own kids anymore, their presence can balance the craziness of the season and perhaps remind kids not to be little sugar monsters more effectively than their own parents can.
Extended families don't often have a lot of time together these days, and the holidays offer grandparents the opportunity to give their grandchildren the kind of advice that comes only to those who have been around awhile. Meemaws and Pawpaws tend to have a more sympathetic perspective on the follies of youth than kids' parents would, so they can be wonderful confidantes and advisors.
Young families devote a lot of thought into developing their own holiday traditions, but it's also super special when grandparents introduce them to rituals they performed with a kids' parents. "Rituals are milestones and they keep a family together and cohesive," Smerling says. "They also give the holiday more meaning when kids see that they're a part of history and generations."
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