We don’t do families the way we used to in North America. Parents, grandparents, and children used to share the same household or were all located in the same small village or town. In today’s world, living together in the same household is no longer the default and families are often separated by distance.
It can be hard to maintain links across the generations. The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild however, is worth nurturing. The research indicates that it is good for the grandparents and good for the kids. It’s so beneficial to both that a Stanford psychology professor and researcher has called for a national movement that encourages “intergenerational engagement between the young and old alike”.
Benefits for grandparents
- Increases the frequency of smiling in older adults
- Gives a sense of purpose
- Fosters connection (and therefore reduces risk of loneliness and isolation)
- Infuses energy and invigoration
- Inspires learning – (grandkids are often great at teaching technology)
Benefits for grandkids
- Experience of unconditional love.
Grandparents often don’t have as many distractions or responsibilities and the grandkids can savour the joys that come with undivided attention. I often hear parents say that their parents weren’t nearly as fun and loving with them as they are with their grandchildren. It’s not personal, it’s situational!
- Positive portrayal of older adults and aging
- Great source of learning (about family history, life experiences, what life was like before Netflix, PlayStation, cell phones, and gasp, the Internet)
Benefits for parents
- Can give you a break and frankly, a free babysitter.
- Gives you the satisfaction of watching your parents and kids develop close, enduring bonds
- Preps the kids for when you get older ?
Now I am not telling you what to do (well ok, maybe I am) but seriously, having this break from parenting is a perfect opportunity to devote some time to self care and your other important relationships.
Fostering fun, pleasurable connections
The trick is to foster a relationship between your kids and your parents that is pleasurable. That means you nix guilt induced connections or framing them as an obligation. This might mean dropping the kids off for an impromptu cooking or baking lesson (or official taster!) or inviting your parents to participate in their grandkids’ lives in other ways – going to their soccer or baseball games, attending school concerts. A sleepover at grandma’s house can be a treat for everyone (did someone say date night?)
And if there isn’t geographical proximity, technology offers many options: FaceTime, Skype (why not Skype the recital), or video links to read a bedtime story.
It really is worth the time and effort to cultivate friendship across the generations – it is a win-win for all family members.
What do you do to nurture the relationship between your kids and your parents? Let us know.