Today’s family often has only one adult living at home with the kids. But come Thanksgiving, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the merits of a full-size family. And by full size, I don’t just mean two parents and children, but rather grandparents, parents, and children all together. That is, they needn’t all live in the same house, but the benefits of keeping close family ties are something we should be aware of, especially today when it is so easy to find ourselves socially isolated and not realize that this is the reason for our sadness and irritation.
In spirituality, the three generations have a special meaning: They represent the full process of the ascent of a prayer. It begins with a person raising a prayer, sending it through a “medium” to the top level, and the top level returns the answer through the medium down to the beseeching individual.
This spiritual root manifests in many phenomena in our world, but one of the most vital ones is the three-generational family. This is why it is so mentally and emotionally healthy to maintain ties with all the generations in the family.
In addition to the spiritual benefits, grandparents can give to children what parents cannot. By nature, parents are more judgmental and demanding. Being the primary educators, they have to be that way. Grandparents are more accepting and give the children a place where they can always feel that they are loved the way they are. This is very important for children. Additionally, when children see that their parents treat their own parents well, they, too, will treat their parents well when they grow up, since example is the most impactful and lasting mode of teaching.
To the elderly, time with their grandkids is no burden; it’s a gift (to a degree, of course, as much as their health and energy allow). They enjoy being with their grandchildren, it connects them to their own children, the parents, and gives them vitality and health. To the parents, the children’s time with their grandparents is an opportunity to be with one another or do other things that they have no time or energy to do otherwise.
When parents get an occasional break from their kids, it helps them relax and allows them to be more thoughtful and patient when they are with the children. It also increases the longing of the children for the parents and the parents for the children, and nothing bonds people more strongly than the right amount of longing.
This Thanksgiving, I wish everyone a happy holiday, with lots of love and with the whole family.