The importance of grandparents in the family

Grandparents are an important part of the family structure. They represent the history, the traditions and the bond that binds family members together.

I grew up with my grandparents around, and had a wonderful relationship with them, especially my grandmother. I remembered whenever we had a gathering or Chinese New Year, we would all head to our grandparents’ place for the gathering. Their home would be the center of all celebrations.

What can we learn from our grandparents?

Here are 5 important life lessons that we can learn from my grandparents:

  1. They are the “go to” people or the “shield” when my parents were busy and tired – they would act as “shields” or “protectors” against our often strict, cranky and “unreasonable” parents. For example, whenever we were not happy with our parents, our grandparents would be the go-to person; they were our outlet to vent or “shield” about what seemed to be the harsh and unfair treatment from our parents.
  2. They are the source of your culture and traditions – When my grandparents had some spare time, they would share their life stories with us. The memories of their own families, their culture and traditions during their childhood, what were expected of them, what they did and how it is different from our time. For example, my grandmother was only allowed to study provided there were no boys attending the same class. And there would always be the driver waiting for her at the school, once the lessons were over; she was expected to go straight home and not allowed to mingle with friends, especially the male students.
  3. A source of wisdom and traditions – When my grandparents were younger, it was expected they would learn more hands on stuff, such as sewing, cooking, baking, handiwork etc. For example, my grandmother being a girl, she was expected to be “fluent” in her craft, i.e. cooking and sewing (that would be a highly prized criteria for the prospective in laws to look at when choosing a bride for the son). Thus, I learned a lot about good food from my grandmother and handy stuff from my grandfather.
  4. Belonging and a sense of self – When my grandparents shared the childhood stories of our parents, it gave us a better understanding of who our parents were when they were a child, their lives, their stories and how they transitioned from children to adults, and ultimately our parents. It gave us a sense of how relationships change over time, especially from our parents’ childhood and ultimately our parents, to a sense of self and belonging.
  5. Empathy and love – When our grandparents got older, they needed some help from family members to care for them. We learned that looking after elderly family members is part of a family practice and we needed to be empathetic of their needs. Also my grandfather passed away when I was a teenager. We learned about bereavement and how family function during these sad moments. It was definitely valuable skills on how to cope and move on after sad episodes in our lives.

If you still have grandparents around, embrace their company, and allow your children to spend more time with them, to share their joy, their wisdom and their love, but most of all – to be who they are!