Grandparents

© Aishah Ho

In all traditional culture, the interaction between grandparents and grandchildren was part of the
transmission of that cultural heritage.  The grandparents represent one end of the spectrum where they
possess stories of life’s wisdom and whose development are slowly or rapidly declining.  Whereas the
grandchildren represent the other end who are like sponges that continuously soak up knowledge for their
development.  It is this bond that immerses and infuses the three generations together.

     A disruption between the grandparents and grandchildrens’ bonding occurred in the West during
the nineteenth century.  The Industrial Revolution uprooted families from their locality to another locality.
People moved from villages to the city in search of jobs.  A consequence of this was that extended family,
once the norm, was replaced by the nucleus family.

     In our consumerist society, families migrated from one country to another country in search of a
better living standard.  The chance of grandchildren meeting their grandparents becomes even less frequent
for those who live in another state.  The grandparents become someone you visit during festival season or
holidays.  However, if the grandparents live in another country, how often do they get a visit from their
grandchildren?  Consequently, the grandchildren lose their roots.

     The obvious consequence of this severed bond is the lost of a family support network for couples
raising their children.  Interestingly, during a workshop on child abuse, a spokesperson for D.O.C.S
(Department of Community Services) said that the presence of grandparents in the family reduces the chance
of child abuse.  For instance, it will give parents a rest when children spend time with their grandparents.
Furthermore, when the parents are about to punish the children or they are in the midst of giving verbal and
physical punishments, the grandparents intervene through letting the parents know that they are getting too
aggressive.  Thus diffusing the situation.

     When we examine the term “Generation gap”, the excuse of teenagers that their parents do not
understand them, we see that these children were left on their own to learn and discover their own
interpretations of the world.  Their companions on this journey are other children of their own age group.  It
is like a case of the blind leading the blind.  It comes as no surprise that they do not see the world as their
parents do, nor could their parents see what they see.  In other words, there is no continuity between the past,
present and future.

     In contrast, in the traditional Muslim society, one can find in a madrasah (school) a 70-year-old
man studying along side a 7-year-old boy.  The beauty of this was the elder Muslim act as a behaviour
control on the youngster through imparting life’s wisdom.

     However, what about when the grandparents are Muslims but their grandchildren are non-Muslims,
or the grandparents are non-Muslims but their grandchildren are Muslims?

     In the case of the grandchildren being non-Muslims,  there is opportunity for grandparents to
transmit Islam to their grandchildren.  Conversely, there is the danger of non-Muslim grandparents
transmitting their religions to their grandchildren.  This situation can become exacerbated if the
grandparents are antagonistic towards Islam.  However, there is no rule that says children cannot convert
their grandparents to Islam.  For this to happen, the grandchildren must have a strong foundation in Islam
which can only be nurtured through family and community support.

    The importance of the role of grandparents in children’s life cannot be stressed enough.
Grandparents are around for their grandchildren for only a short period of time - benefit your children from
this time!