OUMA, GOGO, NANA… We all have different names for our grandparents, but they play a similarly important role in our lives, whatever our culture.
If you were lucky enough to have a grandparent in your life, you’d likely remember them with fondness. You may not recall details, but when you think of your gran or mkhulu, you still get a warm, fuzzy feeling, right?
It’s a mixture of nostalgia and a memory of feeling safe and adored.
MORE THAN A BABYSITTER
While grandparents often play a very practical role as secondary or even primary caregivers, it’s the emotional role they play in a child’s life that interests Cape Town family counselor Mimi Hewett, who specializes in families and relationships.
“Grandparents, in my opinion, should be the soft cushion and provide their grandchildren with space where they can feel safe from judgment and strong discipline. They allow your children to feel loved and accepted just the way they are, without feeling that they need to ‘perform’ to earn that love,” Mimi says.
With decades of experiences behind them, grandparents can also offer your children a unique perspective on problems. Your kids may even find it easier to confide in them than sharing their problems with you.
As parents, explains Mimi, we often try to fix or solve problems (enter the helicopter parent), while an older person may take a different approach by telling stories about how things were done when they were young.
This allows your child to learn and build problem-solving skills.
Your parents fill the role of historians in the family too. Encourage them to share your heritage with your children and pass on family traditions. Children will be naturally interested to hear stories about what you were like as a child and hear funny family anecdotes.
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