How to Be a Mindful Grandparent

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in every aspect of our lives. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training program, popularized “mindfulness” in the 1990s. He chose the term carefully to express a central tenet of Buddhism. Mindfulness means “sustained, focused nonjudgmental attentiveness to the here-and-now.”

Co-authors Shirley Showalter and Marilyn McEntyre chose The Mindful Grandparent as the title of their new book to reflect their intentional style of grandparenting – fully present with their grandchildren and conscious of their actions.

Making memories and fostering relationships with our grandchildren in the midst of a fast-moving culture isn’t easy, and a legacy that lasts isn’t crafted overnight. So how do we as grandparents cultivate strong, meaningful relationships with the children we adore?

Mindful Grandparenting

At our September meeting, Shirley shared some tips on how to be fully present with our grandchildren. If we can maintain a sense of “awe” when we’re with our grandchildren, we will naturally become mindful. Then we can tap into our deepest self, our grandchild’s deepest self, and the world around us.

We have three opportunities in our lives to experience awe:

  • As a beginner in the world when we’re a baby, we see everything for the first time.
  • As a parent, we recognize the awe on the face of our child and return to that original wonder.
  • As a grandparent, we see the world new again through our grandchild’s eyes.

When we pay attention to all these layers of wonder, it allows us to fully engage with intention and focus – not just with our grandchildren but also with our children and ourselves.


Shirley created an acronym just for our GaGa Sisterhood to help us remember how to keep awe in our lives: A.L.W.A.Y.S. G.A.G.A.

Astonish: Follow poet Mary Oliver’s “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Love: Build that deep, lasting connection between a grandparent and grandchild over the years as you share interests and passions.

Wisdom: Take the knowledge of our elders and pass it on to our grandchildren by making lists of our favorite quotes, poems, music, and teams; find ways to share these. Your passion may not transfer to your grandchildren, but your love will.

Attention: We must stop, look, and listen to develop keener senses.

Yawp: Play with language; make up words together or find funny-sounding words that make you both laugh. Keeps a list of fun words on your fridge.

Serendipity: Also Serenity, Singing, and Sacred. Singing is a wonderful way to connect. Create a family song that you sing when you get together. “Peace Like a River” is her family song.

Games: Play is the work of childhood; enjoy make-believe together.

Artist: We can capture our grandchildren’s awe by enjoying and displaying their art.

Grandparent Team: Our team may be composed of many grandparents who respect and include the “other” grandparents too.

Awe-some: This word reminds Shirley of her grandson’s reaction when he flew his first kite – “it was awesome!”

Fun Activities for Connecting with Grandchildren

  • Call your grandchild on the day of the month their birthday falls. Shirley calls it their “Monthiversary.”
  • Create a list of your favorite made-up words that make you laugh.
  • Gather some conversation starters or riddles when you all get together.
  • Send your grandchild paper cutouts or articles in the mail.
  • Make a list of your favorite quotes, poems, songs, paintings, and food. Share yours and ask your grandchildren for theirs.
  • Take nature walks. Learn the names of plants, animals, birds, and insects.
  • Make things together. Playdoh, slime, and Mickey Mouse pancakes are just a few.


3 thoughts on “How to Be a Mindful Grandparent”

  1. You are so right, Irene. I am seeing a new stage emerge as our oldest enters 6th grade. But I look to you and other grandmas who have older grandchildren to help prepare me for the next stage. How have you remained Gaga as the children become adults? How many of the ten words above still apply? I am sure LOVE does. And what seeds did you plant in childhood with them that you are harvesting now?

  2. How about exploring grandparenting children once they become young adults? A shift happens when our beloved grands become adults, off to college, off to new people in their lives or new jobs.

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