Geralyn Vilar and her granddaughter Trinity stood side by side at the kitchen counter, combining ingredients for cranberry and orange scones. Vilar held up the recipe card for Trinity to read, then Trinity began zesting a fresh orange while waiting for the oven to heat up, both of them smiling as they worked on the batch together. It’s one of the many ways the Village of Glenbrook resident spends time with her 19-year-old granddaughter, despite the differences in how they like to spend their free time. Vilar said those of Trinity’s generation are on their phones with “fingers going a mile a minute”, despite not even having a computer when she was so young.
Vilar’s teenage years were all about leaving home to see friends and screen-free entertainment, while Trinity relishes technology as a way to connect to the outside world.
When Vilar began homeschooling Trinity a year and a half ago, she found ways to connect with her granddaughter that wouldn’t require compromise or cause resentment in either the other.
They began integrating language arts and online story games into Trinity’s curriculum.
Vilar took Trinity on a golf cart to learn to drive.
The two even wrote a book together about animals forging friendships despite their many differences.
“Everyone needs to feel loved,” Vilar said. “It’s important that the children love their grandparents, but also that the grandparents love them too. Grandparents pass on family values and tradition. It brings families together. You remember who you are and what your heritage is.
Close relationships like the one Vilar and Trinity have are becoming more common as the demographics of modern grandparents have changed over the years.
Grandchildren need their grandparents
Not only are grandparents across the country younger, but they are also taking a more active role in politics, education and recreation. At the same time, younger generations on average have different views from their grandparents in these areas.
With the generation gap widening, this unique generation of grandparents are finding new ways to connect with their grandchildren and forge special relationships as they actively participate in their lives with more frequency.
As life expectancy continues to rise for Americans, more and more people are living long enough to become grandparents and even great-grandparents – and many are experiencing that joy at an earlier age.
This has created a more active and capable generation of young grandparents who have the means and energy to invest in the lives of their grandchildren, with the average age to become a grandparent now being 50, according to independent research group The Legacy Project.
Liz Grauerholz, a sociology professor at the University of Central Florida, said grandparents play an increasingly important role in children’s lives, not least because they live long enough to see their grandchildren grow up. .
“People are living longer and have more time to build that kind of relationship, whereas in the past you wouldn’t necessarily have had grandparents living past their twenties and thirties,” Grauerholz said. “Now that’s pretty typical. There is the possibility of developing a relationship with adult grandchildren.
Kim Diemand of the Village of Fenney is one of many grandparents who play an active role in the lives of their grandchildren.
Diemand, a Vietnam War veteran, said he remembers his grandmother as a “great woman”, but also that she acted much older than him with her 8-year-old granddaughter. years, Stella. His memories of her are in a drab dressing gown with knee-high stockings and sensible shoes.
“It was just a different time and place. She was probably younger than me now,” he added with a laugh.
Diemand calls himself a “cool, hip, hip grandpa” at 68 and said he was incredibly invested in encouraging Stella’s curiosity.
For example, Stella loves to read, so Diemand tracked down a book of poetry his mother read to him as a child so the two could read poems at night on FaceTime. He said that at Stella’s age, he played with little green army men in the mud with his friends while his granddaughter learned new skills from YouTube videos and had recently started origami.
Diemand said knowing Stella’s world means he learns from her as much as she learns from him – something that was perhaps not so common between grandparents and their grandchildren in the pass.
“I think there’s a level of sophistication in (Stella’s) generation that wasn’t present in my generation,” Diemand said. “I think for grandparents the lesson is to not even think about being condescending. You will lose your grandchildren assuming they are less knowledgeable because they are less experienced.
A generational divide
Sejal Mehta Barden is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida and executive director of the Marriage and Family Research Institute. Barden said the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are “fundamental to conveying the story of families, providing context and examples of where the collective family has been, the challenges the family has overcome and the unique attributes of the family structure”.
Additionally, Barden said, older generations need to understand the cultural narrative of growth in today’s world to understand the new challenges facing young people.
“We know that when we take the time to listen and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can form deep relationships and connections,” Barden said. “At the end of the day, we are all trying to find meaning in our lives and our purpose. Connecting with our family who are of different generations is an invaluable tool for building and maintaining relationships and giving meaning.
Social and political generational gaps are wider than ever when comparing the baby boomer generation – anyone born between 1946 and 1964 – to the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996. Seventy-eight percent of baby boomers are Christian and a majority are white, unlike millennials who are 56% Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. Additionally, Pew research shows that the number of Americans who identify as white is declining, with many more grandchildren being born biracial.
Determine a grandfathered style
Sandy Sweeny-Merkel, from the village of Largo, is an example of a grandparent bridging the social and political gaps between herself and her grandchildren. She has two sons on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum who raise their children very differently. One of his sons is conservative, homeschools his children and does not allow them to use the internet. The other is more liberal and encourages the use of technology.
“My grandparents for one set of kids are very different from grandparenting for the other set of kids,” Sweeny-Merkel said. “With an ensemble, we play videos. It’s my art group and we paint and draw and do things like that. With the other group, we read books, go on nature hikes and cook. My grandparents are determined by how my children are parented.
Grandparents across the country are finding ways to connect with their grandchildren and develop the relationships they never had with their own grandparents as children.
At The Villages, it’s especially easy to find communal activities to enjoy with the grandkids, from Camp Villages events to family pools among many other offerings throughout the region.
Most importantly, these grandparents pass on wisdom and spend quality time with the younger generations.
“There are things that I don’t think I taught her that she may have learned from me,” Vilar said of her granddaughter. “Maybe some of it comes off like planting a seed, without even needing to teach those things.”
Editor Rachel Stamford can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5254, or [email protected]