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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 October 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER 2016 23 GREEK LIFE My grandchildren know that I am always on their side and always turn to me if they are upset or in trouble with their parents. I often giggle when one is in trouble with their mother and their response to her is ‘wait until Pappou hears about this!’. - Pappou Elias Mavrogiorgis Yiayia Jenny Mavrogiorgis I absolutely love going to my grandparents’ house and spending time with them. You know, if there is one thing I love, it’s the amazing smell Yiayia Katina Sykaras has a huge wealth of knowledge and the time to pass it on to her granddaughter Kate and grandson Stratis. of yiayia and pappou’s home. - Dezzi Tsoukalas, Mrs Mavrogiorgis’ granddaughter Pappou Elias Mavrogiorgis own kids. We worked hard and had little support. We are now the support that our family needs and in a position to give the children more of what the parents can't. We close the gap that is there," she says, and educators seem to also concur with this theory. "Grandparents often become surrogate parents due to their own children's life circumstances and busy lifestyles. It is their wisdom and experience or even just the cooking or gardening experiences they share with the little ones that make children feel strong and proud. It's about the way they tell a story, they hug and kiss and ultimately the way they say the most important words of all − I LOVE YOU," continues Ms Tsegrenis. Growing up as a child whose parents had just migrated to Australia, mother of two boys herself, Ms Kathy Tellis, didn't get the opportunity to meet her grandparents until she was nine years old. "When I finally got to meet them, the love and security they provided to me was as strong as that of my parents, except they spoilt us more. "Unfortunately I didn't get to en- joy that on an ongoing basis and I always felt something was miss- ing from my childhood. Therefore, when I had my own children, I craved for them to be surrounded by their grandparents' unconditional love and learn more about family values," says Ms Tellis. It seems that memories and knowledge grandparents share with their grandchildren gives them a sense of continuity and history that is important for their identity development, but one can't help but wonder; is that how grandchildren feel? Now 14, Yiayia Vasiliki's eldest granddaughter Victoria continues to crave and seek that connection while looking forward to "paying her grandparents back" in any way she can. "Pappou and yiayia understand the importance of family, teach us about their life back home which is essentially our history. They give to us a sense of tradition and culture and they provide guidance and life lessons which no school can provide. I know that my grandparents are always there for me and that their love is unconditional with no strings attached," says Victoria. "At the same time, as the years go by I feel a sense of responsibility to be there for them also and help them in any way I can, for exam- ple, help them communicate in the English language. I love that I can do that for them." Despina Pashalis explains that children have the ability to immediately feel the connection with their past because in their eyes, their grandparents are also a sense of 'history', both on a personal and a cultural level. At the same time, life is so fast and demanding that parents are not often able to spend quality time with their children in order to discuss personal and cultural values. "These values, customs and traditions are, more often than not, passed on from grandparents, especially in the Greek culture," she explains. Victoria's mum, Maria Paneras, wants her children to experience and immerse themselves into what she describes as a "piece of history". "Without their grandparents the girls' Greekness would be in trouble of fading. The grandparents give the girls a sense of Greek pride. When the children visit their grandparents they behave differently than they do at home. It's almost like all three grandchildren step out of the daily chaos and enter into a Greek village. They help prepare and eat more Greek food, they speak more Greek, they listen to Greek music and they dance to it. They even watch Greek television. "Grandparents are the connecting pieces of the family and they offer a different education to that which schools offer. It's the education of life; belonging, family connections, traditions and culture, celebrations and customs. It's all the little things which come together to help shape who we are." Sixty-nine-year-old proud pappou Elias Mavrogiorgis is a great example of that. "My role in my grandchildren's life is to teach them about our culture, our faith and our traditions and to become the conduit between them and their family history. Listening to stories of survival and resilience connects the kids with their heritage, gives them a sense of identity and the confidence to go through life's journey," he says. But it's not only beneficial for the children to have grandparents around. Grandparents seem to also enjoy their once in a lifetime role; that of yiayia and pappou. "We certainly have a sense of pride when it comes to our grandchildren. I often tell people that my grandchildren are the most intelligent, most beautiful and the most loved children in the world. After all, that is what all grandfathers believe!" says pappou Elias. Ms Pashalis' recent research thesis (December, 2015) also investigated the consequences of parental divorce in adults within Greece and how it affects the family unit. "Although western European research indicated that children of parental divorce are more likely to develop depression, cannot form relationships and academic achievement and career is affected, in comparison to children whose parents hadn't divorced, our findings showed no difference, and no effects of parental divorce on children in Greece! And guess what? The majority of the children were being looked after by grandparents! "I think that says enough," says Ms Pashalis, sending a clear message to parents who seek her advice on what to do with the 'grandparent issue'. "Do nothing at all. Just be grateful that they are still around and let yiayia and pappou do what they do best. After all, it's their JOB." And by the sounds of things, they do it well.
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