POST 50

6 Life Skills Every Grandparent Should Master

SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

It can't be restated too many times: 50 is not old. In fact, between age 50 and whatever you consider "elderly," we're afforded a unique opportunity for freedom and rebirth, according to George Schofield, Ph.D., a grandfather of seven, developmental psychologist, futurist, speaker, professor, and author of After 50 It’s Up to Us: Developing the Skills and Agility We’ll Need. "We can develop new skills and we're freed up to take some risks and do things we haven't done before," he says, "I'm talking about the next 30 to 50 years. What will I be engaged in? What will I be interested in? I need to look far enough out and predict what will happen and what skill sets I'll need to adapt to it."

Read on for the six most important skills grandparents can develop to improve relationships with their family and get the most out of life.

  • 1 Listen appreciatively to others
    Schofield defines "appreciative listening" as the ability to listen to someone with interest, without interruption or judgmen
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    Schofield defines "appreciative listening" as the ability to listen to someone with interest, without interruption or judgment, and allow them to finish the whole story. This can be especially important with young grandchildren. What's to be gained: You might really need to hear what the person has to say — for your own benefit or theirs. And in the case of grandchildren, you might learn something about them that you didn't know, but should.
  • 2 Set boundaries and observe them
    Want more fulfilling relationships? Call the shots on limits and boundaries that protect your autonomy, says Schofield. Ongoi
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    Want more fulfilling relationships? Call the shots on limits and boundaries that protect your autonomy, says Schofield. Ongoing boundaries are one of the keys to successful, multigenerational relationships. Example: Requiring your grandchildren's parents to let you know in advance if they want you to babysit. "My friends constantly complain that they are a drop-off babysitting service," says Schofield. But when you set a boundary that requires the parents to give you notice and to ask your permission, you put yourself back in the driver's seat. "The grandparent gains the comfort of not feeling guilty when they say "no," and they gain the joy of putting structure around a relationship that works for them."
  • 3 Plan for a healthy, creative future
    Set yourself up for a stimulating adulthood that's separate from your role as a parent and grandparent — and let your grandch
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    Set yourself up for a stimulating adulthood that's separate from your role as a parent and grandparent — and let your grandchildren see the possibilities you are discovering as an older adult. Examples: Return to school, find work that fulfills you (volunteer or for pay), or join a club. "It's a combination of planning and execution," says Schofield. "Suppose I retired and wanted to do two or three new activities. I would choose things that involved my mind, body, new friends, new ideas, a shift of attention. I want my grandkids to see that I can make these choices and have a really good time doing it later in my life. That I've got a new kind of freedom." By modeling this behavior, children learn that the future is vast, varied, and open.
  • 4 Create memorable 1:1 experiences
    Cultivate deep, rewarding relationships with your grandkids by getting to know them as individuals, instead of a herd.<strong
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    Cultivate deep, rewarding relationships with your grandkids by getting to know them as individuals, instead of a herd. Example: Make recurring dates with each grandchild for a special experience—it can be shopping, going to the movies, taking a camping trip, or even scuba diving instruction. What's to be gained: You can create a high-quality relationship that's unique to the two of you. "For me, this has produced some phenomenal conversations," says Schofield.
  • 5 Honor each family member's role
    Once you recognize and appreciate the difficulties each person faces and what they contribute to the family, you can better s
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    Once you recognize and appreciate the difficulties each person faces and what they contribute to the family, you can better support each other. For grandchildren, try to create consistency by assigning them the same tasks in your home as they have in their parents' home, says Schofield. "I honor not just the role, but what my children are trying to teach their kids." The other side of honoring roles is that sometimes you give kids a break from their usual duties. If the oldest grandchild frequently assumes the role of parent or babysitter, show them you notice how much they contribute to the family by relieving them of that responsibility when you're able. "Grandparents gain trust by knowing when to adhere to the rules and when to flip them on their heads," says Schofield.
  • 6 Learn how NOT to be busy
    Everyone should know how to stop and be self-aware. You have to give yourself the freedom to be awake and at rest, because yo
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    Everyone should know how to stop and be self-aware. You have to give yourself the freedom to be awake and at rest, because you can lose yourself in the routine of life, says Schofield. "Shake yourself and go back to your real priorities. Be playful and adventurous. What can look like leisure, like reading or biking, can turn into a frenzy that gets in your way and decreases the amount of pleasure you have," he says. "Self-awareness helps you gain clarity... perspective and pleasure and insight that makes everything richer, like frosting on a cake."
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