Today’s grandparents are more than the occasional visitors who bring gifts. Grandparents have an irreplaceable role in a child’s development. According to the American Sociology Association, grandparents and grandchildren have measurable effects on each other’s psychological well-being. These pillars of wisdom, strength, and support have unique connections with their young grandchildren that foster the kids’ learning and development. Keep reading to learn more.
In 2011, US Census Bureau stated that 24% of children under the age of 5 were routinely cared by a grandparent. Complementing that, on 2012 MetLife stated that when asking grandparents their reasons for providing care to
grandchildren 58% answered “because I enjoy doing it”.
Unlike the first time around (when they were raising you) they are more confident and relaxed around children, which makes them excellent playing buddies and role models. Playing buddies? Yes! Often when we hear the word ‘grandparent´ we think of an elderly person. Well, the MetLife report stated that the majority of grandparents are in between 46-64 years old. It also projected that by 2020 there will be 80 million grandparents in the world, which means nearly one in three adults.
Parents and children of today face a very different world than those of the previous generation. Awareness of these differences can help today’s parents navigate the role of grandparents in a child’s development in life and, on the flip side, help grandparents play a special role in the family.
For example, child health and safety issues are of much greater concern now than before. Today’s grandparents who had children before 1967 took them to school, to the playground, and to their grandparents’ homes without the benefit of seat belts or car seats. Given what we now know about the dangers of automobile travel, it is unthinkable that anyone, much less infants and toddlers, would travel this way.
In addition, for many parents, second-hand smoke was an unknown danger to their children. Now, aware of the health risks it poses, today’s parents are becoming more conscious and making different decisions than their parents once did. As things change in our world, it has become important for grandparents to check with their grown children and be in sync with their parenting styles. Communication and respect are key aspects of the grandparent to parent relationship. However, remember that some things will never change: the importance of grandparents and grandparents’ love for their grandchildren.
PARENTING TIPS: ESTABLISHING THE ROLE OF GRANDPARENTS IN CHILDREN’S LIVES
Here are some tips for establishing the role of grandparents in a child’s life that make both the parents and children happy and safe.
If you’re a parent:
- Check in with your parents and partner’s parents. After you and your significant other, there is no one who loves your child more or wants him/her to succeed more. Don’t overlook the grandparents’ role in child development and parenting help. Grandparents can be a wealth of knowledge and teach you important life lessons. Remember that they’ve raised their own children and have years of learning to build upon.
- Let the grandparents know your expectations for your child. Sometimes this is difficult to do. How do you tell your own mother or mother-in-law that you would like things done differently? The answer is honestly and respectfully. “Mom, we’re concerned about the amount of sugar in juice, so we’d like him to drink milk or water for now. Thanks for listening.” “Dad, we don’t think that movie is suitable. Thanks for taking the girls skating instead.”
If you’re a grandparent:
- Find out your child’s (and his/her partner’s) expectations for grandparents and grandchildren time.
- Are there routines that they’d like for you to maintain as the grandparent? Knowing just the right sequence at bedtime may make the time infinitely more pleasant for you and your grandchild.
- Learn your grandchild’s schedule. Knowing when meal time occurs, how much time the child needs to get ready for an event, when outside playtime is okay, and so forth will allow you to provide more consistency for your grandchild.
- Are there some activities that are taboo? You don’t want to be the reason your grandchild loses privileges.
Does this mean grandparents have to follow the rules at all times? Probably not. What grandchild doesn’t like to stay up late at Grandpa’s house, get another scoop of ice cream, or rent an extra DVD? Grandma’s house can be a very special place with its own set of routines and rituals – it’s not meant to be the same as home, but be certain that the fun is still within the parenting parameters set by the child’s parents.
As grandmas and grandpas – or whatever grandparent names your grandkids lovingly call you – understand the special role and importance of grandparents in the family. Also remember, however, that your children are now the responsible adults who have created an entirely new nuclear family. You went through this process years ago, so remember how good it felt to be respected and have your decisions validated as parents.
Grandparents also provide your little one with a sense of security. Being their parents’ parents makes them wise and reliable in the eyes of your kid; allowing them to develop a close relationship from very early on. Studies have also shown that having a close relationship with a grandparent has positive effects during the teenage years; a time when your son might go through behavioral and social changes and needs an extra ear. Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., founder of the Foundation for Grandparenting and author of several books on grandparenting, mentions “You might say there’s an ‘elder hunger’ for the wisdom of older people. When grandparents share their time and life stories with adolescents, they also share their heart and spirit. That’s a powerful and rewarding experience for both generations”.
Although distance may separate some families from frequent face to face interactions, technology is an amazing tool we can use to keep that relationship flourishing. Studies done with toddlers and Facetime show that at about 17 months your little one knows who he’s taking to and can actually get something meaningful out of the video chat. Plus, this tool is authorized by the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, you can rest assured knowing that your little one can still have a close relationship with his grandparents even from a distance. Of course, when you do get those face to face interactions make sure you make time to maximize the quality and fun of them!