For many people, staying involved in their grandchildren’s lives is a high priority. It’s how you go about creating the bond that gives real depth and meaning to the relationship. Boomers are discovering the joy of being grandparents and the statistics prove they are more than willing to devote time and money to enhance the relationship.
According to AARP’s 2012 “Insights and Spending Habits of Modern Grandparents” study:
- 43 percent travel more than 200 miles to see a grandchild.
- $57 billion is how much grandparents spend on their grandchildren each year.
- 47 is the average age of the first-time grandparent.
- 62 percent of grandparents are still working.
- 53 percent help with educational expenses.
She’s More Than Just a Student
If you ask Deerfield resident Jerry Witkovsky about the grandparent role, he has lots of experience and has even written a book, “The Grandest Love,” that offers tips, stories and experiences aimed at enhancing the special relationship between a grandparent and grandchild.
Witkovsky, who retired from a leadership role at Chicago’s Jewish Community Centers in 1997, explains that his book was nine years in the making. His inspiration came when he picked up his 13-year-old granddaughter from school and asked her, “How was school?”
Her response surprised him: “I’m not just a student, you know!”
That’s when Witkovsky decided to find out what was important in his granddaughter’s life. “In order to stay connected with a grandchild you need to know what her world is about,” he explains.
Letters from Home
Witkovsky ‘s book is filled with lessons he learned—practical, psychological and financial. One section is designed like a workbook, geared to help grandparents define their priorities and goals. And, Witkovsky provides advice from experts in family dynamics and child development, with links to information resources. The book includes 50 inspirational letters from grandparents, grandchildren and others who have been both. Storytelling is very important—especially about one’s own family—because Witkovsky says, “When a grandparent dies, a library burns to the ground.”
He offers these practical tips for staying connected to grandchildren:
- Visit your grandchild’s website or Facebook profile and find out what’s important to him or her.
- Get subscriptions to their high school and college newspapers.
- Read what they read in English class.
- Ask the parents to forward you their children’s activity calendars.
- Try to attend every game and concert in which they participate.
- Know what clubs they belong to.
Witkovsky explains that his message to grandparents is that “Being a grandparent can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and you can provide your grandkids with one the most important experiences in their lives.”