How important are grandparents in their grandchildren’s lives? Studies show that a strong bond between a grandparent and grandkid holds incredible benefits for both. If this article won’t make start planning the next visit to Nana’s house, were not sure what will.
Grandparents are everywhere. There are more than a billion around the world, and more than 70 million of them in the United States alone. You probably know someone who’s a grandparent yourself!
Grandparents are also important. Four out of every five grandparents see themselves as an important part of their grandchildren’s lives, and science shows they are right on the mark!
Grandparents help families in numerous ways, both practical and emotional. Grandparents may share their wisdom and life experience with their grandchildren. They allow the younger generations to know their family history and feel a stronger connection to the previous generations. They are often perceived by their grandchildren as valued advisors and good friends. Many babysit and provide childcare when the parents need to work. They will provide financial support, if they can. And, of course, they give the best gifts (spending on average over $800 each year).
But, are they really important? Do they REALLY make a difference? Research done by psychologists and sociologists around the world found that they do. Here’s what we know.
The impact on grandchildren
Grandparents help their grandchildren both direct and indirect. Directly – the time they spend with their grandchild is important and impactful. Indirectly – they providing care that allows mothers to go back to work, give exhausted parents some time to rest, and share their experience and advice with fresh moms and dads.
The impact of all that is wonderful. Children who grow up with close connections to their grandparents tend to become healthier, both at a young age and later on. In school, they are more engaged and have fewer behavioral problems. In their social life, they are kinder and friendlier to their peers. When interacting with older adults, they display less ageism and less prejudicial views. And – they are less likely to become depressed. (This effect on depression, by the way, is not limited to childhood, and will follow the grandchildren to adulthood as well).
Grandparents may also serve as a safety net, protecting children when the going gets get tough. When children go through difficult experiences, such as divorce or bullying, studies have shown that a grandparent’s involvement significantly reduced the impact of these events. When families find themselves in economic difficulties, sociologists discovered that it is often the grandparents who come to the rescue. And finally, knowing one’s family heritage, passed on by a grandparent, has been shown to improve overall resiliency.
The impact on the grandparents
The relationship between the generations benefits both sides. Grandchildren give grandparents the opportunity to provide, to care and to love. Grandparents who care for grandkids find themselves moving, thinking and interacting more, and these activities have a huge beneficial effect. Nine out of every ten grandparents saw their relationship with their grandkids as beneficial for their wellbeing, two-thirds stated it made them more social, and over half saw benefits both for their level of activity and for their overall health.
These perceptions have proven to be true (Did we say that grandparents know best?). Studies have shown that grandparents who interact with their grandchildren are less likely to experience loneliness and depression. They are also less likely to experience cognitive decline. Babysitting even one day a week will make one less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. And finally, it has been shown that regularly taking care of grandchildren will extend the average grandparent’s life expectancy by five years!
So what now?
As a parent, if your mom or dad is involved in your children’s lives’ – cherish it. It is a blessing and one of the greatest gifts that can be given to all involved. If your parents are not involved, do your best to make that happen. Invite your grandparents over, make sure you visit them, and encourage all interactions between them and your children. And, finally, if for any reason creating such a relationship is impossible, find other opportunities to foster a relationship with an older adult. Invite that nice neighbor, retired teacher or good friend, to dinner once in a while. Everyone will be better off for it.