Imagine how much stronger our communities would be if grandparents learned effective skills and techniques to engage with their grandkids to forge strong relationships. With a mindset of curiosity and openness, grandparents could be a positive and stabilizing influence for their grandchildren.
The good news is that there is already an organization devoted to teaching these skills, the Legacy Grandparenting Coalition, a national Christian organization devoted to encouraging grandparents to open up lines of communication and connection.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with Ray Dobbs and Andrew Thompson about the organization and Legacy Grandparenting national summit that will be simulcast at Columbia Grove Covenant Church on Oct. 20-21.
Dobbs, a former radio personality and business owner in Chelan, serves along with his wife Kathryn as a regional ambassador for the Legacy Coalition. Thompson is the senior pastor at the church, which has established a grandparenting ministry to help parishioners engage more intentionally with grandchildren.
The church’s motto, “Love Like Jesus,” reflects a commitment to constructive engagement in the community.
Many grandparents are so busy with retirement or aren’t sure how to effectively engage with grandchildren. Technology and social media have made it more challenging for cross-generation engagement.
The Dobbs, who have 10 grandchildren, attended a Legacy Grandparenting summit several years ago and fell in love with the program. At the time, they thought they were pretty engaged grandparents but the more they learned about the program, the more they realized they were just scratching the surface of building effective relationships.
Sharing one’s wisdom, faith and values is an important part of the Legacy Grandparenting program. As Dobbs put it, in looking at his 75 years on this planet, he realized that “God had a plan for each one of those steps for me.” He wanted to find a way to share his wisdom and faith with his grandkids.
The skills and techniques being taught by the Legacy Coalition are in many sense universal — a person could apply them to all sorts of relationships. All of us can learn more effective ways to communicate in a supportive environment. We could apply these principles and tools to better understanding those with different political perspectives.
The Dobbs were living in Chelan when they first got involved with the program, and then moved to East Wenatchee a few years ago and connected with Thompson and Columbia Grove Covenant Church. This ultimately led to the development of a grandparenting ministry at the church devoted to encouraging and trainIng seniors to stay engaged and active with their grandkids.
Kids growing up these days are facing tremendous pressures, Thompson said, including peer pressure, anxiety and uncertainty. “Mental health is the issue of our time,” he said. Suicide prevention conversations and post-suicide family care have become a part of his pastoral work.
He’s convinced that the Legacy Grandparenting approach can help bridge the divides that exist between the generations. There are far better tools than lecturing or criticizing youngsters. Instead, the lines of communication must be opened up so that deep conversations and sharing of wisdom and faith can occur. Giving kids the permission to express their feelings, their doubts about faith and open up about their life experiences is a crucial part of forging stronger bonds.
Thompson and Dobbs are encouraging other churches to set up grandparenting ministries to strengthen the community.
Those who are interested in developing these skills can sign up for the simulcast at Columbia Grove Covenant Church at legacycoalition.com/summit. For those who cannot attend, the coalition offers a variety of resources that can help individuals build these skills. Those can be accessed at legacycoalition.com/resources.
As a community, mentoring kids is the most important job we can do. The Legacy Grandparenting Coalition is a terrific resource for helping us learn to foster meaningful cross-generational connections.
Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 665-1162.
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