There is no doubt that healthy parent-child relationships are important for a child’s emotional wellbeing, but what about the relationship between children and their grandparents?
Grandparents play a very important role in the lives of their grandchildren, often behind the scenes. Supporting the parents and in turn the family, is one of the many ways in which grandparents make an enormous difference in the life of a child. Whether a grandparent is involved in the day to day of minding and raising children or occasionally picks the child up from kindergarten or school, there is no doubt that the bond between a child and his/her grandparent is special.
Sometimes it’s easier for grandparents to advise, counsel or guide their grandchildren as they are not emotionally invested in the same way a parent is. They are older and have the potential to bring a wealth of life experience and wisdom to the relationship. They have more time and/or energy on account of having retired from paid work, enabling them to enjoy activities and quality time with their grandchildren. This can provide opportunities to teach practical skills such as gardening, knitting, cooking or woodwork that children may otherwise not have the opportunity to learn.
Grandparents are important in fostering a deeper connection to the extended family and in building and maintaining family values and traditions. Family traditions give children the feeling of belonging to something bigger, which can help them to feel secure. Grandparents are also great sharers of family history via storytelling, again helping to promote feelings of belonging. Having a sense of one’s heritage can be important to a person feeling and staying connected, thus supporting their emotional wellbeing.
Grandparents often provide a wonderful example of healthy family and marital relationships and can be an important source of support during family disruption. They are able to be mentors to the younger generations and playmates for their grandchildren. Research suggests that children experience the unconditional love and acceptance of their grandparents in a way that is unique and different to the love of a parent. But the relationship is not important for the child alone it is also hugely beneficial for the elder.
Just as children benefit from their grandparents, grandparents in turn benefit enormously from spending time with their grandchildren. The often uninhibited and care free ways of children can be incredibly inspiring to the elderly. Being with children can bring out their youthful, playful side and helps bridge generation gaps. Studies have shown that spending time with grandchildren can reduce the risk of depression in older people and that caring for grandchildren on an occasional basis can lead to a longer life.
At our Kensington Grange home, we’ve recently introduced an intergenerational program that aims to foster friendships and connection between children of a variety of ages and the elderly. For more details, stay tuned for next week’s post. If you would like to make an appointment to visit one of our homes please contact us here.