When the Pope talks, you better listen. And when he gives you homework, you best do it.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis told a group of Italian children they should frequently listen to their grandparents, ask them questions, and tell them their dreams.
“They remember history, have life experience and, for you, this will be a great gift that will help you in your journey,” the Pope told hundreds of youngsters who were members of the Catholic Action’s children section.
“I’m giving your homework,” said the 80-year-old Pontiff. “Speak often with your grandparents. They, too, have this contagious joy. Ask them lots of things, listen to them. And be sure to tell them your dreams, too.”
The Pope isn’t the only believer in inter-generational communication. Psychological experts have long touted the benefits of younger people talking to the oldest members of their family.
Grandparents can be especially good at passing on wisdom and family history to their grandchildren.
In fact, of all the gifts that grandparents can give their grandchildren, few are grander than a sense of where they fit in to the history of their family.
But this family storytelling idea is more than just a wonderful bonding custom; it has a proven basis in scientific fact.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia have found that children who know a lot about their families have higher self-esteem than those who only know a little.
In addition, those children aware of family history are more likely to feel in control of their own lives.
Grandparents can also serve as a sounding board, especially for their grandchildren during difficult teenage years. Adolescents rely heavily on each other during their formative years and grandparents can serve as an impartial source that can help their grandchildren understand which friends they can trust and which they cannot as they try to establish values.
Since grandparents have lived long enough to realize not to get upset over the little things, they can also help teenagers, who often believe everything is hyper-important, learn to adjust their priorities and make better decisions.
In today’s troubling times, grandparents can often help their grandchildren deal with anxiety caused by our increasingly chaotic, violent world.
Of course, as both secular experts and the Pope point out, interactive talk is great, but sometimes it’s enough just to listen to one another, no matter what our relationship.
Every so often all we need is for someone to offer an empathetic pair of ears.
And this is true whether you are a grandchild, a parent, a grandparent, childless, or even Pope of the Catholic Church.