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What kind of grandparent are you?
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Linda and Richard Eyre encourage readers to be proactive grandparents. - photo by Linda and Richard Eyre
If you are a baby boomer, now in your 50s or 60s, you likely have another 20 good years ahead of you, and you probably have grandkids who you consider to be the best part of this autumn of life.

The question is, how much time and mental energy will you expend on these living legacies? How much will you prioritize them and how proactive and deliberate will you be as a grandparent? And where do you go to learn the art of effective but unobtrusive grandparenting?

We basically believe that grandpas and grandmas can save the world and have a lot of fun doing it.

When someone asks, Who is going to teach this generation of children the values, character, family narrative, even the street smarts that they will need? most of us would answer parents and church. But in todays world where most parents work full time, and where lifes business and all its demands seem to increase exponentially, who is to say that parents will find the time or the means to give their kids all that they need? And as much as we love the support mechanism of church attendance, all the programs and guidance that goes on there should be thought of as supplements to the family, not substitutes for it.

So who else can possibly build kids' faith, identities, character?

You guessed it: the grandparents.

And who will give kids the confidence, the positive self-image and maybe even the resources they need to become all they can be? The same ideal answer is parents, with help from church, but who else can pick up the slack?

You guessed it: the grandparents.

There can be an incredible connection, even a symbiosis, between grandparents and grandchildren. It is a connection that can preserve traditions, build character and bring joy to both.

When your kids have kids, you have a decision to make: What kind of grandparent will you be?

There are several types of grandparents, and each comes with a different attitude:

1. Disengaged grandparenting.

Attitude: I raised my kids, and now its their turn to raise their kids. Im done.

This attitude might lead you to downsize into an adults-only condo by a golf course where your days would be quiet but boring.

2. Limited grandparenting.

Attitude: Love to see them but in limited doses and on my terms.

In this model, grandkids are like amusement parks you go there once in a while to have fun or like dinner guests you have them over now and then when its convenient.

3. Supportive grandparenting.

Attitude: My kids need all the help they can get with their kids, and I want to be there for them.

With this approach, you become part helper, part martyr, sacrificing your own life to be at the beck and call of your adult children whenever they need you to help with kids.

4. Proactive grandparenting.

Attitude: My children are the stewards for their children, but I can teach my grandkids things their parents cant and can be an essential part of an organized three generation family. And by thinking about it and coming up with a strategy and a plan, I can make a real difference in my grandkids' lives, even as I add joy to my own life and keep myself young.

Only at this fourth level does grandparenting become effective, consequential and truly fun. At this level, you deliberately ponder the needs you can uniquely fulfill and set goals and plans to enhance your grandchildrens lives, and you do so in concert and in teamwork with the goals and stewardship of their parents. We challenge all grandparents (including ourselves) to resolve to pursue this fourth level.
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