“I’ve been ziplining,” she says. “I’ll do whatever they do.”
It’s not peer pressure driving 64-year-old Teresa; it’s intergenerational relationship building. The brick-and-mortar is active engagement with an 18-year-old granddaughter and three grandsons, ages 12, 11 and 7, whom she and husband Perry see regularly.
“We go on trips together,” says Teresa, a resident of Oakland, Nebraska, who also has a home in Lincoln where the grandkids live. “We’ve been to the mountains, the beach…”
Proud of her home’s designated Nerf gun and Harry Potter closets, the retired fourth-grade teacher says a close grandparent-grandchild relationship keeps her and her husband “young, active and up-to-date.”
Michael Vance, Ph.D., director of behavioral health services at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, says all parties benefit from regular grandparent-grandchild interaction: “There’s a very healthy stage of aging called ‘generativity,’ where the elderly feel like they’re valued, contributing and giving back to the next generation. You want generativity versus stagnation. It gives kids more of a feeling of a village, more people showing them unconditional love, which surely doesn’t hurt.”
Omaha’s Dan and Stephanie Gruber treasure their solid relationship with their grandkids, ages 10 years, 6 years and 21 months – and they are continually working (and playing) to develop it.
“Squirt gun or Nerf gun engagements occasionally break out between myself and the older two grandchildren,” says Dan, 62, longtime director of children’s ministry at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Omaha.
For him, grandparent bond-building began immediately.
“When they were babies, I started connections by changing diapers and rocking them in my recliner at nap time,” Dan says. “Telling a grandchild you love them is important. … Eating meals together helps grow relationships. During meals, I listen more and talk less.”
The Grubers are big fans of cooking and baking with the older grandkids, saying it “builds confidence and allows time to speak into the life of a grandchild.”
Teresa says that’s what it comes down to – time: “You just can’t replace time. You have to capture it while you can.”