The relationship your children have with your parents is more important than you think.
“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance.
They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life.
And, most importantly, cookies” – Rudolph Giuliani
Remember the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where a baby is born as a 70 year old and then ages in reverse? An unusual idea, but very compelling to watch. In the film, old and new are curiously blended into one, much like the unique intergenerational bond between a grandparent and grandchild.
Numerous studies have highlighted the important resource that grandparents provide to children, especially during times of change and of challenging experiences. According to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is second in emotional importance after that between parent and child.
Sufficiently removed from the pressures of day to day parenting, grandparents are able to approach their grandchildren in a fun and playful manner, enhancing healthy learning and development. Involved grandparents make a big difference to the lives of their grandchildren. They pass on life lessons, valuable advice, wisdom and social values in a framework of unconditional love that is different to a parent-child relationship. They are the crucial link to the past, and can be great teachers of the family’s heritage and identity. From bedtime stories to baking special culinary dishes, grandparents pass down unique family traditions from their own childhood.
In return, grandchildren are extremely valuable and precious teachers. Their youthful energy keeps grandparents on their toes, mentally sharp and up to date with the status quo. Grandparents often rekindle their childlike sense of fun and wonderment through their grandchildren and are reminded of the beauty that childhood’s innocence brings.
There are more grandparents around today than in any previous generations. With longer life expectancy and improved health in old age, grandparents are much more active and involved than before. Instead of pottering around or spending the day in a rocking chair, studies show that many are playing sport, dancing and even having sex twice a week! They are in tune with the digital age, proficient in navigating the internet and keeping up with social media. For those that do not live close to their grandchildren, they can now enjoy keeping in touch with applications such as FaceTime an Skype as well as emails and letter writing. Grandparents are economic powerhouses, controlling an impressive 75% of the wealth in the US. Whilst many give back to their communities and charities, most also contribute to the welfare of their own grandchildren.
A grandparent’s role is often indirect, providing key support to the parents. Many are generous with their time and money, helping with babysitting and providing financial support. A survey by MetLife showed that grandparents in the US spend an average of $1700 on their grandchildren annually; this is usually spent on their grandchildren’s housing and childcare as well as gifts and special excursions. They also can provide emotional support to parents, positioning themselves as ‘stress buffers’, ‘arbitrators’ and family ‘watchdogs’. They can be a useful resource for parents to discuss parenting issues and open a window into their own childhood. However, sometimes with the luxury of hindsight and now released from their own pressures of parenting, their advice can be unrealistic and outdated. Some adopt an ‘I know best’ attitude which can be intrusive and disempowering for a parent; there is a fine balance between constructive advice and unhelpful criticism. Others are so relaxed and laid back that discipline goes out the window and grandchildren are uniquely spoiled. Either way, a special bond is created and magical memories are made, laying solid and positive foundations for the child’s own future as a parent and grandparent.
“As you are now so once were we” – James Joyce