Inclusive Grandparenting - Celebrating ALL Our Grandchildren

collage of images of grandparents, child blowing a shofar, apples and honey, and an open Torah scroll

I recently had the good fortune of presenting a live session with the Jewish Grandparents Network. If you are not yet familiar with this organization, I encourage you to get to know them. The Family Room is a lovely and growing opportunity to explore ideas and resources to strengthen relationships with grandchildren of all ages.

I was thrilled to lead a conversation where we explored ways to enrich relationships with grandchildren through the use of inclusive language, deep learning, and active listening. 

Framed in the Jewish value of b'tzelem elohim (created in the image of God), we discussed celebrating differences and recognizing the potential of every child. It is hard work to honor the spark of God that is in each person we encounter in our lives. Some people make this harder to remember than others. They may try our patience or push our buttons; but I believe this is just more incentive to elevate the connection. Remembering that each of us has a spark of God within us will enrich and strengthen our relationships and all of our interactions with other people.

Inclusion is a mindset – not a program or a classroom or an organization – inclusion is a way of thinking, a way of welcoming and celebrating others, and a way to ensure that all have the opportunity to experience a sense of belonging.

Here are some practical tips for ways you can build more inclusive relationships with grandchildren, both those with and those without, disabilities:

  • Seek to understand differences: Take the opportunity to learn all you can. The more you know, the more empowered you will feel to engage in supportive conversation with your children and grandchildren. 
  • View differences as an integral part, but only one part, of a human being. Help to teach your grandchildren that different is OK.
  • Teach respect, understanding, and dignity to people of all abilities: The best way to do this is by modeling; it can also be through books, films, or other shared learning experiences.
  • Speak to children, not about them.
  • Be vulnerable yourself: Sharing your own challenges and limitations can help you to connect with both your grandchildren and your children and may help to open a deeper dialogue around successes and challenges.
  • Be willing to step in as support: Parenting a child with disabilities is hard work, and your children may appreciate the added support you can offer. Ask them what they need most.
  • Get support for yourself: Grandparenting a child with disabilities may not look like the grandparenting you were expecting. Give yourself the grace and space to accept this as you find ways to create and embrace new expectations.
  • Foster a sense of belonging by treating each grandchild as a respected and valued member of the family. Spend one-on-one time with grandchildren, both those with and those without disabilities. Sometimes children without disabilities need extra support or attention as their parents can be overwhelmed by attending to the needs of their sibling.
  • Above all, rejoice in the joy that is grandparenting!

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