Intentional Deep Experiences Across Lifecycles

FAQ – ECE Grandfriends 

Any age can work. We look at ability rather than age; if the grandfriend is able and ready to be emotionally involved and responsive with a child, then they are able to participate. If children will be visiting grandfriends who are in memory care, the experience is different.

Weekly, on a regular basis. For example, every Tuesday. If the grandfriend leaves town for a long period (for example for the winter), the children and grandfriend can keep in touch with regular phone calls and letters. 

Please see Resources on the ideal18 website to find a sample letter that can be tweaked to match your organizational culture. Word of mouth is also a great way to find good people.

Between 1.5 – 2 hours, including the introductory video made so as to introduce themselves to the family (attachment). At the training, the grandfriends will also need to sign media releases (for photos and videos for the purpose of documentation, learning, and sharing on various types of media). 

The ECE/Synagogue has to be willing to assign a point person that has the ability to communicate with the Directors of ideal 18. Staff must also be covered for training on maximizing the grandfriend-child relationship. Consider parents and other volunteers as partners as well. Hopefully they will become involved in supporting the program and the relationships.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Consider whether this is a program for the whole school or certain classrooms. During the first year experiencing intergenerational work, we recommend starting with classes that are open to the prospect of having a grandfriend. Once there is more experience built in, it can move to all the classrooms.

Ideal 18 Directors will work to coordinate visits or zoom calls to work with the teachers and point people.

Ideal 18 will train teachers on preparing the children and families. The teachers will also learn how to bring topics that emerge at encounters back to the classroom, and will also share documentation with the families such as videos and other documentation that capture the emotional and intellectual depth of the program.

If your school is chosen as the recipient of an Ideal 18 grant, the grant will cover the coaching/learning experiences and Director visits. Schools are required to cover staff release time for meetings and trainings, in addition to materials for the encounters. 

If your school is not the recipient of an Ideal 18 grant, you can access the assistance of Ideal 18 through consulting as needed.

This is recommended, and may be required by your licensing state.

Although the experiences with grandfriends have been overwhelmingly positive, there are always rare exceptions. There was one grandfriend in one program that belittled a child who was sad and after some conversations was counseled off the program. From here we learn (1) the importance of choosing grandfriends who enjoy and relate to children, and (2) how important preparatory training is both for the children and the grandfriends.

The idea is to enrich and expand the relationships in an entire classroom. To this end, we believe it is easier to create relationships with many children when the grandchild is not in the same room. At the same time, we imagine that the grandparent might visit their grandchild for a hug and hello on their way in or out. In special instances, there have been grandfriends that started their relationship in their grandchild’s class (after conversations about confidentiality and assurances that they would be able to be the grandfriend to the entire room). These grandfriends are encouraged to stay on in the years after their grandchild graduates.

From the first time the program is advertised, and applications are solicited, it needs to be clear that a certain number of people can participate. It is also important to stress the traits that you are looking for: patience, kindness, consistency, presence etc. Just like any difficult conversation with anyone, we have to remain empathic and sensitive, and counsel the applicant towards other communal possibilities.

Everyone wants to be needed, and the program can only work with volunteers. Being explicit about the importance of the program- that grandfriends are helping create a society that fights ageism and helps children create positive dispositions towards aging in general- is helpful. Volunteering is healthy and belonging to a group and community enriches everyone’s life.

This is a very valid question. We have not had anyone link an illness to their participation in the program. We recommend that any grandfriend who is afraid to participate get a clearance from their physician. If a grandfriend’s immune system is particularly compromised it could then become an issue. Nowadays, however, everyone is exposed to more germs as travel has become more frequent and common. In addition, it is the ECE’s (and the parents’) responsibility to keep children home when they are not well.

We sensitize everyone who is working in this program to the possibility. We have crafted resources for teachers and parents on our website. We recommend reading children’s books about the life (and death) cycle in the classroom on a regular basis so as to normalize loss and death. We also recommend Earl Grollman’s writings on this subject.

We start including families from the beginning, with a letter notifying them and explaining the program. After the children prepare questions and work on what it means to get to know someone, we have sent videos of the specific grandfriend to the parents. Parents and children watch the video together with the grandfriend answering to the questions the children prepared as a means of introduction. Parents can be invited to meet the grandfriend during the year or at an end of year celebration. The school will share documentation of the encounters with families so that they can follow, enjoy, and be part of the learning.

All participants are responsible for participating in periodic training and reflection. All participants are responsible for appointing a point person to make arrangements for regular encounters, with materials that maximize creativity and interaction. 

Grand friends are responsible for consistently coming into the classroom for a minimum of one hour, on a weekly basis (barring illness or travel). 

The ECE’s are responsible for documenting and disseminating the documentation: Videos, photos and conversations to share with the community as a whole. The point person at the ECE is responsible for creating meaningful curriculum that includes the grandfriend, and that the grandfriend is integrated into the community (e.g. that the community celebrates the grandfriend’s birthday).