The definition of a grandparent is pretty simple, but the term is very complex. The ability to love and shower affection, and a willingness to help and comfort their grandchildren have made grandparents indispensable.
The different roles they play only serve to emphasize their vital link in the family. They bring a wealth of experience and the unique ability to be advisers, listeners, mentors, friends, and, sometimes, guardians. They offer support, stability and loyalty.
Parents can play a vital role in developing the bond between grandparents and grandchildren, becoming the bridge between two generations.
So, what can we do as a school to fortify the bridge between the generations? On Dec. 21, right before the school break, we hosted our annual "Grandpersons Day." Since not all of our children have a grandparent who can attend, we invited anyone "grand" in the child's life to join us for a special program.
We began by meeting in the synagogue sanctuary where the rabbi joined us and each age group (yes, even our infants) came up on the bimah to perform a Shabbat song. With musical instruments in hand, or following along to a special Shabbat song on a CD, we all joined in together - l'dor v'dor, generation to generation. Then they went back to the child's classroom for a Shabbat service, special snack, and arts and crafts.
This year, our pre-K teacher, Nora Elias, asked the grandparents to each write a short autobiography that was then going to be put into a classroom book.
Both generations cherished the memories they created together and we felt proud that we could bring them together. Children flourish in any setting filled with love and trust, and we are thrilled that we could provide this for them.
The intergenerational program creates connections between the grandparents and their grandchildren, as well as between the grandparents and their grandchildrens' teachers. It is a way to bring families together and to build community. Children get to show their love and appreciation and, in turn, the grandparents feel valued. A win-win situation. It not only validates the grandparents' role, but it lets them know that they are making a difference in the lives of younger children. Children whose families are involved in their education will learn and succeed better.
Those of us lucky enough to have grandparents know how influential they can be in our development. If you are, or are soon becoming, a grandparent (as I am about to be), you appreciate this role. Perhaps it is the most important role you have or will have.
In the wake of the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., let us hold our loved ones tighter and appreciate our times together. Both young and old together can complete the "grand" circle of life.
Chalk Talk is a monthly education column written by local educators. Sari Topper-Romberg is the director of the Beth El Center for Early Childhood Education.