In times past, when families lived closer together and elders were an important part of family life, grandparents often shared in the excitement of childrearing. The first tooth, the first step, the first day of school — each was a tiny miracle to be cherished. Children felt a part of their grandparents’ lives and were deeply affected by their loving care and affection.

Today there are changes in society and family life that can disrupt this important relationship between elders and children. Children may be separated from their grandparents by distance or by divorce. Social attitudes may quietly erode values that strengthen elder-child relationships.

Our lives can be enriched by contact with people of all ages. Children have much to learn from their elders. Seniors can benefit from involvement with the kids by establishing a sense of connection with the younger generation and knowing they play a major role in their lives.

Grandparents Day is on September 10th. The day has a threefold purpose:

- To honor grandparents;

- To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children; and

- To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.

National Grandparents Day originated in the ‘70s. A West Virginia homemaker, Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, initiated a campaign to set aside a special day just for Grandparents. Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) was instrumental in the project. The first Grandparents Day was proclaimed in 1973 in West Virginia by Governor Arch Moore. Also in 1973 Senator Randolph introduced a Grandparents Day resolution in the U.S. Senate. The resolution languished in committee.

Mrs. McQuade and her team turned to the media to garner support. They also began contacting governors, senators, and congressmen in every state. They sent letters to churches, businesses, and numerous national organizations interested in senior citizens. In 1978, five years after its West Virginia inception, the United States Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation. Today this event, begun by only a few, is observed by millions throughout the United States.

As Grandparents Day approaches, identify some ideas to help celebrate:

- Have a family gathering, large or small, to honor grandparents.

- Board games can be easily played by young and old.

- Have a ‘story-telling’ time and let grandparents relate stories of their past, enlightening children about the “old days.”

- Take a census, such as oldest and newest grandchild, family with the most grandchildren, and families with five generations.

- Look at photo albums and talk with grandchildren about them.

- Cooking, quilting, etc. can be passed on to those who display an interest.

- Old family music, songs and dances, with their meanings and origins, can be discussed.

- Construct a family tree, giving children the opportunity to learn the ancestral line of their family

- Strive to preserve particular ethnic or religious beliefs.

With Grandparents Day, try to remember shut-ins and those in nursing homes who are unable to be with their families or have no families. Every effort can be made to include these people in the mainstream through cards and visiting.

Most important, Grandparents Day can signify a loving spirit that lives within us throughout the year — a spirit of love and respect for our elders.