Grandparents are the best. The spoil your kids rotten, regale them with tales of a world before internet and smart phones, and they bake the best scones. Plus, if you’re lucky, they provide free babysitting.
But what about when you don’t have any grandparents to lean on? Maybe you live far away from them, or perhaps they’ve passed away. Only having each other to lean on can be taxing (if you’re part of a couple – it can be even harder for single parents).
Even those who have grandparents around might not see them as much as they’d like, with many people working well into old age.
How can you reach out and build your network of special people in your children’s lives?
We asked our Facebook community for their ideas recently, and they came up with the goods.
Sarah suggested visiting an aged care facility. ‘Ring up and ask if you and your kids could come visit…Eventually you will meet just the right person to click with your family. Plus it will make the aged people in the centre very happy.’
Heidi said perhaps a local church could be a good option. ‘Not saying you should start going to church but maybe a minister or pastor will be able to point you in the direction of someone? I have found that our kids have made great friends with some of the older people in our church.’
Michelle had a wonderful success story herself with Anglicare. ‘We were in Perth and through an Anglicare program we found the most wonderful older couple who became surrogate grandparents to our kids. This was 18 years ago, and we are still in contact with these wonderful people.’
Ishil pointed out that you can meet people anywhere. ‘Why don’t you strike up conversations naturally at supermarkets and out and about? I recently met a new friend (older lady) through a conversation at Woolies. She turned out to be a talented artist living by herself in a retirement community. We have made plans for my son (an aspiring 7 year old artist) to come up and see her studio, and to look at her art. And also I in turn would be happy to help her with some stuff she needs help with related to moving into her unit. Lonely people are everywhere in plain sight – we need to start more conversations.’
Raeleen suggested looking closer to home. ‘Do you have any neighbours that don’t get many visits from family? They would most likely love a little person coming over for tea parties. One of my neighbours is early 60s and doesn’t see her grandkids much and loves my daughter visiting. She’s treated like one of the family and vice versa.’
Kate agreed, and has found a way to give back to her neighbours. ‘My daughter has lots of substitute grandparents and great grandparents. We make an effort to help look after the elderly in our street with bins and mail etc. and they in turn spend time with our daughter to chat about things. When we have our children’s birthdays the oldies come too! For me it’s a two-way street – I love to help them out and they love to help in their own way.’
Amanda found support from a younger generation. ‘I eventually developed a new “family” support system through give and take with other families with kids. It’s a garden that sometimes needs to be started from scratch and always needs to be grown with care. We all give as much as we take. We are lacking elder connections a bit…but my son does love our friends’ parents and that’s good for us.’
Daniela had a friend who took the direct approach. ‘I have a Dutch friend who really wanted her children to interact with a Dutch “nana” on a more personal, day to day type of setting, as her parents were still in Holland, while she lived here in Australia with her hubby. So she advertised in the local paper looking for a “Dutch nana to adopt”. This was before internet/skype etc. so the face-to-face interaction with language and love was invaluable. To this day her children, now adults themselves, have their own grandparents (in Holland and Australia) but also have their “adopted” grandparents.
Angelica added that perhaps a notice at the local library or supermarket might be the way to go.
And Susan suggested the most straightforward answer of all: the Surrogate Grandparent Program, a service that matches young families with older people wanting to connect.
So if you’re missing the older people in your life, never fear. There are plenty of solutions out there if you are willing to reach out to connect.