Caring adults
March 14, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

I was in the bleachers watching my fifth grade daughter’s basketball game with the other families of the girls on the team.

I was sitting close to the grandparents of one of the girls on the team. The granddaughter had been called with a foul. The grandma turned and said, “I don’t think she did that.” I just smiled and said to the dad, her son, “That’s what grandmas are supposed to say.” He just smiled.

Grandparents are an integral part of the support network of their grandchildren. Just as the grandma mentioned above, they are on their grandchild’s side, no matter what. I believe that is how it is supposed to be. Grandparents can be a biased ally for their grandchildren.

It is crucial that children have caring adult relationships. In fact, a support network of various adults is a key factor in a child’s healthy, positive development.

Research indicates that when youth receive support and opportunities for growth in a caring environment, they show great improvements in school success. One of the influences most closely associated with bringing out positive youth outcomes is caring adult relationships. Youth even convey this themselves.

As with my children, they do not have grandparents that can play a role. But, there are other adults, and it may not even be relatives, who can fill these gaps. Maybe it’s an aunt, uncle, coach, Scout leader, or mentor who has positive impacts on our children.

Both my parents and my husband’s parents have passed away. My children do miss having grandparents to come to their events, to love them unconditionally, to be biased.

Fortunately, our children had the wonderful opportunity of having their grandmother live with them for some of their childhood. Grandma was definitely their ally.

Our middle daughter, who is now 10, was especially close to Grandma Iris. When our daughter was scolded by us, she would go to grandma for sympathy hugs and kisses. Grandma Iris would always remind me that my twin brother and I would argue at times, too. Grandma would always try to put things into perspective. She never really meddled, just passed on that love and support.

I think that is why Grandma truly enjoyed living with us as her family. She was needed. We all need to feel needed. We all have something to give each other.

Meaningful participation is another influence closely associated with positive youth outcomes. Youth, as well, need to be able to give meaningful input into their work, and this contribution needs to be valued.

Children need to feel loved and need to know that, no matter what, they have a safe place to go. We all play our roles. Grandparents can be that biased support. Parents must discipline with sensitivity, but, yet, must give unconditional love. Coaches, directors, and other relatives can be teachers and listeners.