When I became a grandmother, I decided that I wanted to serve as an influence for good in my grandchildren’s lives. While I realized it was not my duty to “check up” on my grandchildren, I decided I wanted the opportunity to teach and help them.

For me, what has worked best is my “grandchild of the week” program. During the week, I put the chosen child’s picture in a frame on my desk. It reminds me of him or her and prompts me to update that child’s section of my picture book, a book from which I plan to give the grandchildren their pages when they are grown.

If the child lives near me, we do something together during the week; if he or she lives far away, I write a letter, call him or her on the telephone, or send a card or package. A traditional part of the week is that I interview the grandchildren who live nearby and send a questionnaire and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to those who live farther away. When the child is too small to answer the questions, the mother or father interviews the child and sends the answers to me.

By sending the questionnaires, I try to give the children a challenge to improve, and I encourage them to think about things of value. I do this by asking questions such as:

  • Are you reading the scriptures? Are you attending church?

  • What are you doing for exercise? Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat healthy foods?

  • What are you learning, planning, thinking, or reading?

  • Who are your best friends? What do you like about them? Are you helping someone with a problem? Do you have a hobby? What kind of recreation do you enjoy?

  • Do you keep your room neat? What special things can you do for your family? Can you think of a fun project for your family to do together?

  • Are you paying your tithing? Are you saving your money for something special?

In addition, I try to make my visits with my grandchildren into learning experiences. I give them things to do—asking for catsup at the fast-food restaurant or asking for information while we are shopping—to help them overcome shyness and learn to play an active part in what is going on.

I encourage them to get acquainted with their ancestors through family history activities. The children love to hear family stories, especially the exciting adventures; they think of their ancestors as heroes and heroines. Hearing those stories also reminds them of the importance of recording the special events and feelings in their lives.

I teach the little ones cooking skills and walk with them, play games with them, and do puzzles with them.

Spending time with my grandchildren is interesting and fun. It doesn’t take long, but it fosters close relationships and gives me a good feeling to be helping make a difference in their lives.—Stella Hatch, Sandy, Utah

Photography by Phil Shurtleff

Illustrated by Brent Christison