I have been lucky in my life to have two sets of amazing grandparents. All four of my grandparents were able to make me feel like the most important, wisest, funniest, most special person in the whole world. Grandparents have a unique role to play in the lives of families.
They are free to give unconditional love due to their relational distance and differing roles of responsibility in raising the children. They are able to love freely, play more, discipline less, and just revel in the joy of the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Grandparents can truly be present with their grandchild without an agenda.
The benefits to grand parenting goes both ways. Relationships make us all feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. They connect children to their past and grandparents to their future.
Benefits to the Grandparents:
Grandparents often say that grand-parenting is their “second chance”. Perhaps circumstances were such that they made mistakes with their own children or had to work too often and could not spend enough time with them. Being a grandparent, especially during retirement years, can offer an opportunity to heal some of those regrets.
Involved grandparents report less depression and feelings of higher life satisfaction with higher hope for the future.
Grandchildren have the time and patience to teach new skills. Children like to feel needed and valued and enjoy teaching the grandparents about technology and new developments.
Grandparents do not feel the pressure that they felt as parents. There is freedom in the grandparent role. There are all the benefits without many of the drawbacks.
Grandparents are in a position to leave a powerful legacy. Teaching grandchildren about their past and instilling family values for their future insures that part of the grandparent will live on in the child.
Benefits to the Grandchild:
Children feel very special with a grandparent. They know that no one else will treat them that way, and do not expect it. Everyone needs that certain someone who thinks that they “hung the moon”. Grandparents are excellent at being that certain someone.
Grandparents often have more time to spend with the child one on one than busy parents.
Grandparents make excellent confidants. While it developmentally appropriate to rebel against parents, many children do not feel the need to rebel against the grandparents. Grandparents are able to do much more listening and much less lecturing than parents, which results in a trusting relationship.
Studies show that children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills, and can even have better grades. Research shows that children need 4-6 involved caring adults to reach a healthy maturity.
Through grandparents, children can gain a better sense of their history, or who they are and where they came from. Children need to know their roots, or their history to develop a sense of community and perspective.
How to Create a Strong Relationship with Grandchildren
Listen more, talk less. It seems obvious, but the adults with a daily presence in children’s lives are usually talking and instructing and not listening. Grandparents have the unique relationship to just be there with the child and not teach, coach, or raise the child.
Be present, either physically or through letters or technology. If a grandparent cannot visit regularly, utilize the phone, email, social media, or even snail mail! Stay connected to show the child you are there for them.
Let the parents set the rules. Luckily grandparents do not have to “raise” the child.
Obviously have boundaries in your home that suit you, but allowing the parents to set the rules and do the discipline allows the grandparents the joyful freedom of enjoying the wonders of the grandchildren.
In my life, I cannot overstate the importance of the role my grandparents played for me. They loved me through difficult family changes, supported me when I needed them to, were loyal to me always and never judgmental. There is no one else on earth that can play that role in a person’s life.
As I only have one grandparent alive, and she has dementia and does not remember much…she still remembers me and so far I feel blessed. She is the last connection to my distant history. I know with all of my heart that she and my other grandparents were immeasurably invaluable in my development. They brought me pure joy and love. I look forward to playing that role myself in the distant future!