Our daughters, son-in-law and granddaughters all live in the Boston area. When my husband and I lived in New Jersey, we would see them often, but when we decided in 2016 to relocate to Sarasota, Florida, we knew seeing family would be a challenge. We spent the first few summers in the Boston area, giving us lots of time with them all. But, of course, we were unable to be there for the summer of 2020, so staying connected has become more challenging.
Despite the distance, I had an opportunity to stay connected to the grandparenting experience this summer by taking a number of classes through Hebrew College.
Grandparenting Through a Jewish Lens (GTJL), led by Leann Shamash and Ruth Nemzoff, was excellent and informative, with many strategies on building relationships with our grandchildren and adult children. The suggestions were helpful for grandparents across ages and stages. While our granddaughters are now 12 and 15, other participants with much younger grandchildren look forward to using the information from the class. For example, the class stressed the importance of bonding as early as possible with grandchildren despite current constraints. While my husband and I were able to see our granddaughters often and from a young age, Ruth led a conversation about the ways grandparents can communicate creatively via technology (reading bedtime stories over FaceTime or even a tour of your home).
Perhaps the theme that most resonated with me in GTJL was the importance of telling stories to our grandchildren. This topic had been introduced earlier this summer in a Hebrew College workshop led by Leann on practicing the art of storytelling. Leann reminded us that we are the “link between the past and the future,” and encouraged all of us, no matter how young the grandchildren, to start sharing family stories. She reminded us to make stories interesting and lively and encouraged us to be mindful of story “structure,” giving each story a beginning, middle and end.
Family stories…where and how to begin? I began going through old family photos, looking for those that related to stories, and texting them to our granddaughters. This gave them a chance to look through the photos before hearing our stories on FaceTime—stories about our parents, ourselves, our granddaughters and their parents, etc. Lately, we have started to ask the girls who they want to hear stories about. This experience has really helped us connect with our granddaughters. Even if the details in some stories may be familiar from hearing them from their parents, it is satisfying to know we have shared these stories with them in our own voices.
I strongly recommend Hebrew College’s Grandparenting Through a Jewish Lens and encourage all of you to think of the many stories you have to share with your grandchildren. Thank you, Leann and Ruth.
Joan Streit is a retired French teacher living in Sarasota, Florida. She also is a pianist and singer. Learn more about Hebrew College’s community education program Grandparenting Through a Jewish Lens.
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