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Grandparenting 101 Syllabus

Month/Module A: The Higher Perspective, Priority, and Paradigm of More Effective Grandparenting. The first step in becoming better grandparents is not about changing our grandkids, but about changing ourselves. Many of us will be grandparents for 40 years, and in Module A, we will examine our priorities, our roles, the new opportunities and relationship changes that come in the “autumn” of our lives, and the tricky business of being effective grandparents without stepping on the toes of our children the parents. We will discuss the individual hopes and goals we have for our grandkids and think about the three-generation culture we want to create for our families, and how to make that family culture stronger than the world cultures that swirl surround us. For “homework” we will explore and write personal Grandparenting Vision Statements and, if we have a spouse, delve into working effectively as a grandparenting team. Also in this first module, we will discuss long-distance grandparenting (when grandkids live far away) and finally, we will explode some old myths like “being over the hill” and “the empty nest” along with the importance of setting boundaries and finding balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your family.

Month/Module B: Grandparenting Goals and Roles (by age). Being a good and effective grandparent of babies and toddlers is very different from being good with elementary age grandkids. And teens are something else again. We want to go from cheerleaders to champions to consultants. In this module, we will explore the keys to success with each age—from the joy we want to feel and teach with the little ones, to the responsibility we hope to help the middle ones with, to the sensitivity and values that adolescents and teens need most. And we will work on the faith that should overlay it all. Homework will include a “needs analysis” of each grandchild and holding a “five-facet review” of each grandchild with our children the parents. Also covered will be ideas for “rewards and rights-of passage” as grandkids reach certain ages. And we will spend some time on the separate and individual perspectives of grandmas vs. grandpas—how the two roles differ and how they can work in synergy.

Month/Module C: Deep Life Relationships with Individual Grandkids. No matter how many or how few grandchildren you have, the real difference-making work is not collective but one-on-one. In this module, we will get deep into creative ideas about how to get an individual grandkid to open up, how to build trust, how to know his or her real gifts, how to have real communication and memorable fun together, and how to make each one feel like they are your favorite. Homework will involve creating a “Grandchild ledger” where you take notes on what you know and what you learn about each one, and a questionnaire for kids to keep track of their loves and dreams, and another for our children the parents on what they want our help on, and how (along with the very delicate art of giving non-offending advice). Also this month we will talk about becoming literate in the electronic and social media language our grandkids speak, and communicating with them in the way they communicate. And we will deep-dive into relationships with our in-law children and even with our “co-grandparents” from that other side…mending any fences that need mending, and creating teamwork approaches to helping and raising those kids that we all love.

Month/Module D: Smart Support. When it comes to financial help, sometimes we give more by giving less. During this module we will explore the potential joys and pitfalls of assistance, inheritance, and money-help; and will tackle the difficult dangers of entitlement and initiative-robbing and contrast it with the power and motivation of matching, supplementing, and monitoring. Homework will involve creating your own Generation One and Three Financial Planand creating an outline for a “Teamwork and what to expect” discussion with our children the parents. Understanding the vast difference in the financial means of course-members, we will explore ideas ranging from simple rewards and bonuses and a “family bank” to matching contributions in Custodial Roth IRAs. Together, we will answer the questions about how to instill responsibility and “grit.”

Month/Module E: Values and Faith. Whatever our own belief and values perspectives are, we want the best of them for our grandchildren. And we soon realize that values don’t just get passed on by osmosis—they have to be taught, and doing that effectively takes the right stories and ideas as well as the right example. During this module, all course members will receive a set of one-a-month universal values stories called Alexander’s Amazing Adventures which are absolutely brilliant for creating discussion as they are listened to together, making topics like Honesty, Respect, and Self-Reliance come alive and become approachable. You will use one of these audio stories each month over the course of the next year. Your homework this month will include creating a personal, ‘memorizable’ set of “Grandfather’s or Grandmother’s Secrets” which embody the key life-lessons you want to pass on to your grandchildren, and some ideas and best practices for teaching and “implanting” them. There will also be some discussion about prayer and meditation for individual grandchildren.

Month/Module F: Being the Link and the Trunk. New research shows that resilience in kids is linked directly to how much they know about their ancestors. You are the “trunk” between the limbs of your children and grandchildren and the roots of your parents and grandparents, and the more you connect the two, the more lasting your family will be and the more resilient your individual grandchildren will be. This month we will deliberately and specifically delve into the best ways to create the stories and the culture that will bond and ‘eternalize’ your family and create the new “favorite bedtime stories” of your grandkids. Homework will include creating an “Ancestor Book” of children’s stories and a graphic Family Tree where each grandchild has his or her own branch that flows through your children-parents to your trunk and down to each individual ancestor-root represented by a picture and a story. This month also includes a host of ideas for gatherings and reunions, and for building and strengthening bonds between cousins; and a structured opportunity to improve and re-create the Grandparenting Vision Statement that many of you did back in Module 1.

No GP101 member is expected to need or to practice every idea covered in these classes. There are no tests or check-offs. You will pick and choose the ideas and the focus-points that match your family and your grandkids and your situation and your needs.

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