The Lifelong Benefits Of Having A Close Relationship With Grandparents
As Louisa May Alcott so aptly said, “Every house needs a grandmother in it.” Anyone who’s had the gift of a loving grandparent in their lives can attest to their warm, nurturing presence — and there’s research to back up the lasting benefits of this special bond.
When my grandmother was growing up in Europe, families lived in close-knit communities, often with several generations in one household or within walking distance to one another. Times, of course, have changed, with families spread out across the country nowadays. But close grandparent-grandchild relationships transcend physical boundaries, forging bonds that last throughout adulthood.
In this article we’ll discuss:
- How grandparents affect their grandchildren’s well-being
- What grandparents teach kids
- Why the love of a grandparent is like no other
- Ways to nurture a meaningful bond
How grandparents affect their grandchildren’s well-being
Recent studies have shown that actively involved grandparents reduce the frequency of emotional and behavioral problems and increase a sense of well-being. A study by Boston College included data collected over a 19-year period, and concluded that both children and young adults greatly benefit from the intergenerational bonds.
“My grandparents have really helped shape who I am as a person,” says Jonah, a 26-year-old veterinarian in Northeastern Ohio. “They’ve been there for me always, providing perspective, strength and values.” When Jonah needed space as a teen, he’d ride his bike to his grandparents’ house, about a mile away, and watch their fish in the garden pond for awhile before riding home. “It helped me find peace inside myself,” he says.
“I know I’m a better person today because my grandparents helped raise me,” says Jonah’s sister, Hannah, a 24-year-old law student at Ohio State University. “The house I grew up in is home, but Papa and Grandma’s house is also home. To this day, if I’m driving home from school, I always stop at their house first.”
What grandparents teach kids
Sara Moorman, associate professor of sociology at Boston College conducted the longitudinal grandparent study as a tribute to her grandmother. “Grandparents have a wealth of experience — they’ll often tell stories about their lives and how things worked when they were young, and once they become adults, they’re able to maximize those lessons,” she says.
Grandparents offer a perspective that’s invaluable, one filled with rich family history, stories, and life lessons. “Over the years I’ve put together two words with regards to being a grandparent: connections and communication,” says Helen, Jonah and Hannah’s maternal grandmother. “We are generations separated, but we can talk about these things, each of us from our own viewpoint and encourage opinions and respect them.”
“Papa and Grandma have taught me the importance of family, of patience, and how to talk openly about what’s going on,” says Jonah, who also learned how to fish and cook from his grandfather. Both grandparents instilled a lasting love of animals, gardening and nature.
Why the love of a grandparent is like no other
The love of a grandparent for a grandchild is pure and unfettered. “There’s a saying, ‘If I’d known grandkids were so much fun, I would’ve had them first,'” says Helen. “One can love a grandchild in an unconditional way without the stress and pressure of raising a child. It’s an easier, more flowing kind of relationship.”
Teens who have strong bonds with their grandparents often choose to talk with them instead of their parents during challenging times. “I appreciated having the perspective of someone who really loved and accepted me [who wasn’t my parents] and hear Grandma’s sage advice,” says Hannah.
Helen recognizes that not only love, but also trust is essential to a solid relationship, which is why her grandkids feel so comfortable confiding in her. “Grandkids have a certain trust in you that they can tell you anything and they know if it’s a secret, it goes no further.”
Ways to nurture a meaningful bond
Whether you live in the same neighborhood, city, or in another state or country, there are simple ways to maintain and support a close and lasting relationship between your parents and children.
- Schedule regular family gatherings: My parents hosted Sunday night dinners for many years, bringing together sometimes four generations every week — a cherished memory for all who attended.
- Carve out time for holidays, celebrations and milestone events: If you have the wherewithal, take that trip to be with family as much as possible. You’ll be glad you did.
- Say “Yes” as much as possible: Do the grandparents want take your kids for a special outing? Come by to play with the kids, read a book or do puzzles or art projects with them? Yes, yes, yes please! Allow yourself to loosen the reigns and enjoy a much-needed break.
- If distance makes personal get-togethers challenging, say hello via Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp. Set up regular times to write letters, share photos and draw pictures for their grandparents — and create the best-ever pen pals while gaining new skills.
- Be consistent: Like any relationship, a close bond between grandkids and grandparents takes time, energy, commitment, and consistency. Regularly scheduled calls, activities or get-togethers helps establish a rhythm, one your children will come to expect and associate with their grandparents, helping to instill a lasting bond filled with lasting memories.