One of the most important roles we grandparents play is creating rituals and traditions with our grandchildren that share our values. Ongoing traditions provide structure for children which is important for bonding with them.
I’m a big fan of building traditions with my grandchildren and have written several posts on the importance of rituals and traditions for young families.
Rituals are the “glue” that connects us and strengthens our family ties. Rituals help us focus and connect, which is even more important in today’s fast-paced life where we multitask and have less face-to-face connections. We’re often intimidated by the word “rituals” because we think they must be serious, solemn or centuries old. But “rituals” is a stretchy word that can include everything from daily meditation, weddings, funerals, and the opening of the Olympics to kissing our grandchild’s boo-boos or making chocolate chip pancakes when they come to visit.
Rituals and traditions are important because they give children a sense of their family’s heritage. They provide comfort and security, and they teach values as well as practical skills.
Grandparents can strengthen their connection to their grandchildren by building traditions that grandchildren remember and associate with you. The traditions should be adaptable enough to continue as your grandchildren grow.
Traditions to Build with Grandchildren
- Host a holiday celebration for your grandchildren. It doesn’t have to be a major holiday. You can decide as a family. Do the planning together and decide on decorations, food and activities that you will do to celebrate together. Memorial Day is a good one because you can explain the meaning of the holiday and tell stories of your family members who served in the military.
- Write your grandchild a letter. You can write a letter when she is born and share your feelings about her birth and your hopes for her future. You can also create a time capsule for her to open when she reaches a milestone age.
- Teach your grandchild a skill. If you like to knit, scrapbook, paint, or garden, you can share your skill with your grandchild. As he gets older, you can add more skills to teach him so that he can master the skill.
- Volunteer together. Bring your grandchild along with you when you volunteer. It’s a wonderful way for her to learn the value of giving to others and you are setting an example by modeling that behavior yourself.
- Go on a nature hike together. There are many nature preserves that have easy walking trails and signs with information about the trees and plants around you.
- Create a ritual for saying hello and goodbye. I started a goodbye ritual with my granddaughters many years ago that happened spontaneously and now they always say: “Don’t forget to beep your horn when you leave.” I honk my car horn to the tune “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits!”
- Share an activity that interests your grandchild. My granddaughter is fascinated with fire stations. Whenever we go out together, we check out the local fire station and take photos to send to her friend whose career goal is to be a firefighter.
- Start a journal with memories of your visits or time together. Both of you can write down things you enjoyed doing. Even if your grandchild can’t write yet, you can ask him what was his favorite part of the visit and write it for him. Then ask him to draw a picture. This journal will be a treasure to look back on when he’s older.
To get started with creating traditions, make a list of common interests you have with your grandchildren. Then think about related activities that are simple, reproducible over time, and flexible enough to change or adapt as your grandchildren grow older. These traditions you share now will build the bonds that will help your relationship endure and provide wonderful memories after you’re gone.