← Go back Family Matters: Be Thankful for Grandparents
Published on Sunday, September 13, 2015 by

chiensegrandparents240A few months ago a Craigslist ad created quite a stir. It had to do with a mature woman offering to be grandmother to a young child or children who did not have such people in their lives; and a motherly figure to the children’s parents.

Some applauded the kindness and intention. Others did not know what to make of it. One thing that people can agree on is that having involved grandparents makes the world a better place. And here is why.

Patricia Holmes* of Kamloops, BC has seven grandchildren, five of whom live in the same city. She has been present in the life of each grandchild since they were born.

“Watching them grow was the most wonderful thing”, Patricia cites enthusiastically. Children and grandparents have a special connection. Having a grandparent helping out gives parents a much-needed break from time to time along with added assurances that the children are well taken care of.

“My grandchildren tell me things they would not tell their parents. Sometimes they seek advice. Or they might be just looking for another shoulder to cry on,” comments Patricia. “As a grandparent, you need to stay neutral and remind the grandchildren that their parents are trying to do their best. That way the children obtain more understanding for their parents under the gentle guidance of their grandparents”, she adds.

Recalling special memories with her own grandparents, Patricia continues. “They would step up and help if needed, and felt good about their contribution”.

So what if grandparents live far away or they do not get to have daily contact with their families? As it turns out, it’s not quantity but quality that counts, and, like with everything else in life, moderation is key.

According to a recent study published in 2014 in Menopause, grandmothers who minded their grandchildren for one day a week were shown to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

Regular interactions with those close to us helps keep us emotionally balanced and less prone to depression. A recent study also published 2014, concluded just that: grandparents and their grandchildren had a much lower risk of depression when they were connected emotionally.

Is more time spent together better then? Not necessarily. Caring for little ones for five days a week seemed to have the opposite effect, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders. We are all aware how caring for children can be demanding for adults. Well it is even more the case for adults in their mature years, which emphasizes the need for a balanced approach.

If you’re a grandparent living close enough to your children’s family, you have ample opportunity to connect with the grandchildren without all the extra stress you had while raising your own family.

Take your grandchildren out for walks and see the world through their eyes. Delight in their many intriguing questions. Build the emotional bridge now so you keep the communication lines open.

Get down on the floor and play. Be silly. Enjoy those precious giggles. Show them treasures you have around the house. Tell stories and snuggle after story time.

If you’re a parent, invite grandparents to be an integral part of your children’s life and allow them to help whenever possible. It gives them purpose and builds trust for everyone involved. Those with previous parenting experience can offer some nuggets of valuable advice from time to time, so stay open-minded. Learn together about boundaries and be respectful.

Research continues to underscore the benefits of close connections between grandparents and grandchildren. Everyone wins – including the parents! The result is long-lasting memories and strong family ties. Wouldn’t you want that for your children?

Sidebar: What if there are no grandparents in the picture?

  • If grandparents have passed on, make sure you keep their memory alive by having photos up and telling stories about them as your children grow up. It gives them a sense of being rooted in a family heritage.
  • If grandparents are around but not part of the family for various reasons, keep your heart open and watch what develops. Sometimes through unusual circumstances (within your circle of friends, family and community) life puts amazing people in front of us with much love to share.

Daniela, MSc, resides in Kamloops, with husband and two sons. They give her ample reasons to keep reinventing herself as a mother. Daniela believes that some of the most valuable gifts she can offer her boys including unconditional love and time with family.

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