India has 15 crore People in the age of 54 years and above. They would either already be grandparents or would be getting in their categories soon. Let’s see these numbers in a different perspective
· That’s 1 grandparent over 2.3 grandchildren (in the age group 0-14years)
· That’s by numbers more than 9th largest country in the world. If all people aged over 54years in India form a separate country that country would be the 9th most populated country in the world!
· Each one of these is a person who has life experience of more than 5 decades. They have experienced most Independent India’s journey
· The sub group of over 70 years would be the last ones who would have experienced pre-independence India!
That is some force. A huge reservoir. Compare it with how we currently look at them – as people who need support, people who are vulnerable and even need state support – The generation that ‘has’ to be taken care of. While I’m sure the intentions are good, but give a thought to how our treatment of these resources has impacted them – physically and emotionally. What comes to mind first is the real impact on their self esteem and confidence. The feeling of being dependent has had its costs. It’s time to have a relook.
Schools: A structure in reinventing ‘grandparents’
Schools are one of the biggest building blocks in society and can be the catalyst in the re – invention of “Grand Parents”. Schools have the ability to catapult them into a reservoir of resource for the education system. Let the system utilize these resources and learn from them. Let’s partner with them, create programs where they partner with the school. Let’s call it “Calling all Grandparents”. Some ideas that come to mind immediately are:
· Celebrating with Grandparents: Grandparents come to the school on celebrations. They can provide insights on how celebrations are held in traditional ways and share stories about how they celebrated in their childhood. They can talk to the children and explain the reason and importance of these celebrations.
· Real meaning of Independence: For a few years more we can have the benefit of people sharing with our children the real meaning of Independence. Not just a national holiday when everyone goes for a picnic. They can recount their experience of a pre-1947 era.
· Naani-ki-Kahaniyaan: This millennium’s children have lost out on the pleasures and warmth of storytelling by Grandparents. This could be either because of unitization of families / migrations of people from the villages and town to cities resulting in lesser contact with Grandparents. Schools can arrange regular story telling sessions by Grandparents, reviving the pleasures of ‘naani ki khaniyaan’.
· Helping Hand in School Operations: There are times when a school can use more hands. Grandparents can be that helping hand during school arrival and dispersal times, in school picnics or even in administration.
· Experience Sharing: Grandparents have decades of experience in various fields. We have never looked at them as guides in career planning for our children. They do not have to be advisors but they can just come in and share their experiences with students.
· Time with the toddlers: Grandparents can be invited to the school by rotation to spend time with the toddlers.
To ensure there is no gap in the need and the resource, schools can always create a plan by inviting grandparents and brainstorming how they would like to / how they can contribute and engage with the school and the students.
Home is where the Heart Is
Grandparents at home are a very different story. Grandparents did not have the time or the experience of bring up a child when they were bringing up their own children. Lack of experience, lack of time and priority to earn the bread for the family took precedence. As they became grandparents, these barriers disappeared and they are the ones who can enjoy reliving their childhood. They also have enough time and experience to support their grandchildren. But that is not happening. Why?
One of the biggest issues which parents of this age face is the “alignment” with grandparents. Sample this:
“They are too indulging; that’s spoiling our kids”
“They spoil our children”
“I can’t even tell them straight – they will not understand and the issue will get blown up”
“Can’t even do without them, else I would have to leave my children in a day care”
The Best: “They haven’t done a good job with my husband and now they want to make the same mistakes with my children”
These are some of the comments / issues being faced by the new age parents. Given the huge shift in the world (media, technology, exposure) over the last few years, differences of opinions are bound to happen. But remember the love grandparents have for their grand children can’t be matched. Their mix of knowledge and experience too is unique.
Let’s get aligned. Let’s understand their world. Let’s spend some discussion time as a family. Let’s team up as we sit together and share views about raising children. Listen to their styles and thoughts. This team can cause miracles in a child’s performance, increase levels of compassion, love and respect for each other. See grandparents as the reservoir of values, nationalism and family bonds.
Grandparents – let’s not just tap them for the future generations. Let’s give them the respect and honor they deserve!