I welcome you all to this seminar being organized by Zioncliff, a faith-based NGO which has, in its few years of existence made a considerable impact on the lives of many people with its focus on topical issues of sustainable development, trending issues on family relationships, gender-based violence, youth employment, entrepreneurship, disabilities and so on. It is therefore not unexpected that it would focus on an important topic such as the changing roles of grandparents. In earlier seminars, most of which have been online and highly subscribed to,
one recurrent feature has been the changing dynamics of the society.
Grandparents have always played an essential role in the lives of their grandchildren in virtually all societies that I know of. One comedian joked that the love of grandchildren is the reward that older people get from not killing their children in their anger and frustration in their youthful days! In the olden days in Nigeria, it was very common for grandparents, especially, grandmothers to be the main carer for infants and young children. The children bonded more with their grandparents than with their parents and enjoyed the love, care, acceptance and often, indulgence of their grandparents. Even nowadays, grandparents provide the support, help, and advice that young parents often need to relieve them of the stress of parenting and later become arbitrators between adolescents and parents. They can also serve as family watchdogs, noticing and cautioning young people about actions, inactions, and attitudes that can lead to problems in later life. They also impart strong, enduring communal and family values by serving as the repositories of family traditions, history, and heritage which provide a good grounding for life for generations of young people. They do this through stories, myths and legends, and viewing of family heirlooms.
As will become clear from the presentations of our lead speakers, the roles of grandparents are changing in the 21st century. Many parents are still in active working life and do not have the free time that grandparents in olden times had. They may live far away from their children and sadly, may not be welcome in their children’s homes for a variety of reasons, including strained family relationships, illness, death, differences in cultural beliefs and values.
No matter the changing dynamics in society, I advise that the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren should be mutually beneficial. On the one hand, grandchildren bring a lot of energy, love, optimism, laughter, youthfulness and new knowledge to grandparents while grandparents bring old knowledge, maturity, stability, unconditional love and solid values to their grandchildren’s lives. The relationship should be a valuable, thriving and enduring one.
However, I need to throw in a word of caution. Parents and grandparents should set and observe mutually agreed boundaries in order to avoid friction. For example, grandparents must not try to buy their grandchildren’s love or turn them against their parents. Our lead speakers who are renowned experts in this field will give us good insights and solid advice in this respect.
We are all in a continuous learning process. Children grow older; so do grandparents. At all ages, both sides should get to know, celebrate and love one another. Sooner or later, there will be a separation, but such periods should be a time of sadness tinged with joyful memories and nostalgia.
Once again. I welcome us all and encourage us to have an enjoyable interactive process. Thank you.