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Grandparents loving on their grandchild

The Grandparent Advantage

There is a joke that grandchildren are our reward for not “killing” our children. It truly is a wonderful feeling to hold the next generation in your arms.

How do grandchildren impact grandparents?

Grandchildren can have significant implications for grandparents’ own psychological well-being. Grandparents who are actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower rates of depression. The emotional support and companionship provided by grandchildren can buffer against the challenges of aging and promote resilience. 

What are the challenges of grandparenting?

Grandparents may struggle with issues such as boundary-setting, conflicting parenting styles, and balancing their own needs with the demands of caregiving. Other factors including distance, divorce or family estrangement can complicate their relationships. In a Psychology Today website article entitled Why Time With Grandparents Is So Valuable for Kids… and why parents shouldn’t let family drama get in the way, there is an interesting challenge discussed. “Behaviors that may interfere with long-established practices, such as having a tidy home or watching TV after dinner…may require what can be perceived as “sacrifices.”

Some grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

More and more often, as a psychologist, I hear about grandparents raising their grandchildren. Maybe there was a loss of parents due to death, divorce, substance abuse or imprisonment. Maybe the parents had emotional problems that precluded their ability to cope or be fully present. Maybe the parents were verbally, physically or sexually abusive and lost their rights to their children. Maybe finances compelled the parents to work long hours, making them unavailable to their children’s needs. The situations could be quite complex and often these grandparents have been “thrown” into the child-rearing role.

What type of problems can occur between parents and grandparents?

Sometimes the parents and grandparents disapprove of each other’s styles. This can cause intergenerational strife. Parents can consider grandparents too permissive while grandparents think the parents are too restrictive. The reverse can also be true. Parents may want the grandparents to raise the children exactly as they dictate. However, herein lies a problem. It is called “trust”. Grandparents raised their children (the parents) who probably didn’t turn out too badly. Generally, it is just best to trust that what needs to happen will happen, as long as there is no abuse. Both generations have wisdom. Both generations have made and will make mistakes. That is how everyone learns. Consider a child in school. Every year the child must adapt to different teachers, different rules, and different styles. The child may prefer one teacher over another, yet the child does adjust. The same is true of parenting and grandparenting. Some are more formal, others warm and fuzzy. Some are fun-seeking and adventuresome while others may be distant. It is important for there to be tolerance, acceptance and trust in one another.

What do grandparents offer?

Grandparents can offer wonderful stories of “olden times”—what life was like then, perhaps before the age of technology. Maybe they recount the rules they lived by. Food before food processors. They remember the days when families sat at the dinner table…together. Music on record players. Black and white TV…if they had TV, and before remotes! They may remember rotary phones, only one in the house, and no cell phones. What?! No texting? 

Grandparents can share their wisdom. Many have the leisure of retired life with less daily pressures and more time to spend with their grandchildren. They may be modern or old-fashioned but they bring a certain awe that only age can provide.

Is there an advantage to being a grandparent?
Consider this poem by Howard Eisenberg:

The Grandparent Advantage

The grandparent advantage
As some of you may know
Is when a tantrum starts
You can just get up and go.

Reference: Psychology Today. (2023, November 29). Why time with grandparents Is so valuable for kids… and why parents shouldn’t let family drama get in the way.