The Importance of guiding your children to respect & appreciate the elderly

Our kids are very fortunate to not only have all 4 grandparents still around, but also 3 great-grandparents. I often watch them enjoying the company of one of their grandparents/greats and wonder what will become of the future generations of "elderly's" .... you see my Dad in Law (the curlyKids Opa) grew up in Germany during world war 2. Listening to his insights and experiences of growing up during that time is extremely interesting, fascinating and important. My own Grandad grew up in Ireland and England and has his own stories to tell about "those days" and my mum in law has plenty of stories to tell about growing up with 10 siblings. My Nonno Grew up in Italy where he became a Shepherd. Yes, a real life Shepherd boy.

I just sometimes wonder... Why has simple respect for the elderly become a rare thing? Where will the stories and family history go if Grandchildren begin to loose interest in their elderly relatives? It's already happened in a big way. The sadly large number of 13-30yr old's who have no interest whatsoever in listening to, hanging out with or talking to anyone past 45 let alone 65, is staggering. What happened? Why do people just seem to not care anymore?

Well partially it could be because the entertainment industry portray older people as either grouchy old sourpusses, stupid, weird, stubborn, "cute" and basically, a burden to society. It's true that their are a few exceptions, but for the most part, it looks to be a negative portrayal. This doesn't help.

It may also have something to do with the fact that sometimes parents just don't encourage it anymore? You see the family unit used to be a big thing. Grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and so on, were top priority in life. Europeans still have a far greater grasp on this way of life than us Aussies do. For some reason many Aussie families tend to lean in the opposite direction. They avoid answering mums calls. They forget to visit Nanna and then a month or so go by and they are finally dropping in. Nobody seems to have the time to chat with grandad. They are too busy working, studying, raising kids, attending conventions and hobbies, watching 10 TV series a week or something, anything else. The whole "mum-in-law from hell" tag seems to be rising its wretched stink in families all over the place. These poor women don't stand a chance since they've already been categorised well before the wedding bells went off.

It's quite sad how many elderly people are shoved into nursing homes for selfish reasons. Don't get me wrong, I am well aware that sometimes It isn't an option. For example, if the elderly person cannot be safely cared for in a normal home environment. But there are so many elderly people who are being thrown into these homes just because sonny boy is too busy pursing his career to look after dear old dad, or daughter dear doesn't want grandma slowing down her lifestyle and just doesn't really care. It really is heartbreaking that our hearts are so far away from the most important thing life has to offer. Other people.

You see, the elderly, they are PEOPLE. They weren't people once upon a time and are now half-humans quietly waiting to die. Honestly this seems to be the attitude of some people. The jokes I hear about "dottery old granny" or "simple minded Mrs Jansen" or "the weird old guy across the road with all those birds". It makes me sick when people talk about them like they are clowns or something.

"Dottery old Granny" has lived alot longer than you missy, and she could teach you a thing or two if only you respected her enough to listen a while. C'mon, shes 85, I think she has earned the right to speak a little slower and even tell the same story more than once. As for "simple minded Mrs Jansen"... shes not simple minded, it's called wisdom. She doesn't say alot, because she has learned that it is a waste of breath and time to talk rubbish and she saves her thoughts for the right moments, and if you opened your ears you might hear a world of wisdom in a single sentence instead of just hearing something "simple". Besides, in today's world we actually need a bit of simplicity anyway. That "weird old guy" across the road... he likes birds... so what? You like cooking, or good wine, or basketball, or home and away... and nobody thinks your weird because of that. Maybe if you walked across the road and took the time to have a coffee with him you might discover a man who has lived an amazing life full of adventure and wonder, who has now contentedly settled down and slowed life down and is enjoying himself thoroughly, birds and all.

Cutting to the chase, I feel it is SO important to teach our own children to respect and cherish the elderly people in their lives. To have a healthy respect for anyone who is older goes a long way. We need to let our kids know that Nanna and grandad, they are great people with alot to offer! And great grandma and great pop, they have some amazing stories to share and alot of wisdom to offer and we ought to listen attentively.

We should not teach our children to merely endure the elderly, but to embrace them. Not to "humour" them by listening to their stories out of obligation.... but to make the effort to listen properly, out of love. To try and learn something from them. (not that you have to try... you WILL learn something!) Making the effort to visit grandparents/great grands on a regular basis speaks volumes to your children. If your trying to teach them what is important in life, it will only sink in as far as you show them. Live it. Visit the elderly people in your life, with a happy attitude. If yours live overseas or in another state, call them, skype them, email them or even write them letters. Together with the kids. Have them draw pictures, tell stories, share there lives with elderly people. If all the elderly in your family have passed away, or other genuine reasons prevent you from being able to be a part of their lives, you don't have to look too far to find other elderly people to bless.

Some schools organise certain age groups to visit nursing homes to spend time with the elderly. It's a wonderful idea and if your school hasn't done this yet, suggest it to them! If you homeschool like us, you could try to organise a weekly, fortnightly or monthly outing with other home educating families to visit the elderly in your town. It can be simply to offer some company, or to use a skill or talent to put a smile on their faces. Maybe you have an elderly neighbour you and your children could get to know? Especially if they are alone, invite them for dinner occasionally, or bring over a nice meal. Some of my best childhood memories were spending time with the elderly neighbours. Get creative with your kids, make it a goal to remember the elderly. To respect them and appreciate them for who they are.

We can all learn so much from our elders and we are the ones missing out if we don't. I would absolutely love to sit down and have an in depth conversation with my own Nonno about his life in Italy. Because of the language barrier it makes it very difficult. I'd love to listen about how he was a Shepherd and where and how he lived. Id like to hear his thoughts on how being a Shepherd himself, would enhance his understanding of God when he reads the bible about the Good Shepherd and the stories and parables about that. They likely mean alot to him as he would be able to relate to it much better than I can. I'd love to know about his friends, the culture, the hardships he endured, the brave immigration to Australia and all the hard work he had to do to get where he is today. I know a fair bit about him just by asking my own father. But there are some questions that can't be answered third-party.

I think it is wonderful that the elderly people in our lives have so much to offer and that they have so many years under their belts to draw from. I can only pray that we do a good job in this area of respect and appreciation for the elderly with our own kids. I think with each age group it's a different stage in the process. The very young need to learn to speak respectfully to elders. They later need to realise that nanna and grandad aren't just lolly machines but are VIP's. They need to understand the value in life experience and the wealth of knowledge stored up with age. They need to be encouraged to admire people who are far beyond their years of smooth skin and physical swiftness.

If the generations could respect each other and learn from each other more, the world would be a better place. This is no cliche, it really is true. Let's always remember, the elderly aren't "over the hill".... they're on top of it, looking down with a birds eye view that we NEED in this day and age. Let's try our best to encourage our children to love the elderly and to give them their time. After all.... you, and they, will be elderly one day yourselves and boy will you want the same treatment then. Just think of the years, all the time spent in their lives pouring out into their own children and friends. They were once busy busy busy parents of babies and toddlers with many many commitments. They have done the hard yards they have earned the right to relax and the experience to share with someone. Let that someone be you, and your kids.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic. Is there anything you would like to add? Anything you would like to share about how your family instills a respect and love for the elderly in your lives?

Here's my children and In sharing lunch and some quality time with my dad in law...

Go and call your grandparents and decide to be a blessing to them and listen to then today.


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