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Benefits of Grandparents (+ How to Stay Connected from Afar)

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Benefits of grandparents - Dr. Axe

There’s plenty of research suggesting that spending time with their grandchildren is beneficial to grandparents’ health. What about the benefits of grandparents to their grandchildren?

Many of us have heart-warming memories involving our grandparents. Whether it’s holiday get-togethers, waving to them from the sidelines of a sports game, getting a little treat from them during a visit or just the day-to-day love you received from a grandparent — for many, grandparents positively impact their mental, emotional and even physical health.

We know that this relationship is special for so many reasons, but few know that research actually shows there are plenty of benefits of grandparents being in their families’ lives.

In fact, data shows that these relationships can reduce the risk of mental health issues and promote overall well-being.

Benefits of Grandparents

It’s impossible to count the many benefits of grandparents. They are nurturers and have a major impact on the lives of their children and grandchildren.

For many American families, they are invaluable.

One scientific review pointed out that grandparents play an important role in raising grandchildren for logistical reasons, too. As women and mothers become more integrated in the workforce, mothers depend more on extended family, particularly  grandparents, to provide care for their children.

The number of single-parent homes has also increased. As of this 2017 report, about 7 million (10 percent) of grandparents lived with at least one of their grandchildren.

What are the benefits of grandparents in children’s lives? I’m sure you could make a long list based on your own personal relationships, but there are some specific benefits that have been proven.

Many reports indicate that multigenerational bonds increase the well-being, stability and support for children.

Here are some proven benefits of grandparents:

1. Improve Mental Health

Like the benefits of aunts, grandparents promote mental and emotional health for their grandchildren.

The emotional support and closeness received from a grandparent can reduce the risk of depression among adult grandchildren, according to research conducted at Boston University. Researchers found that for both grandparents and adult grandchildren, a close relationship reduced depressive symptoms.

The bonding sessions between grandparents and grandchildren improves mental health because they provide a sense of support, patience and love.

2. Provide a Sense of Security

Grandparents are known as a security blanket. They are trusted and provide great emotional support.

They are also tremendously comforting, with their physical affection and even with the way that they are present in a grandchild’s life. In a time of need, a grandparent is there, which doesn’t go unnoticed by the grandchild.

One report called grandparents the “first line of defense” when families are in need, troubled or disrupted. They are often there to contribute time, caregiving and even financial resources when necessary.

3. Share Interests

Are any of your favorite hobbies or activities passed down from your grandparent? Maybe it’s fishing, hiking, biking, painting, reading books, listening to music or playing chess.

It’s common that grandparents and grandchildren share interests that bring joy to both generations and increase their bond even further. Plus, grandparents have the experience and wisdom that can be passed down from generation to generation.

For many grandchildren, they continue these activities or interests through childhood and adulthood, always keeping a piece of their grandparents with them.

4. Improve Physical Health

We know that grandparents help improve the mental health of grandchildren, even when they become adults, but what about their physical health?

A study published in PLoS One suggests that grandparents may reduce grandchildren’s cancer risk factors. This is because of the positive influence that grandparents have on their grandchildren’s health, especially related to issues like smoking, alcohol use, diet and physical activity.

5. Help with Childcare

Grandparents commonly help with childcare, which is a tremendous help to parents. We also know that the benefits of grandparents raising grandchildren are extensive.

Research published in the Journal of Family Issues found that children living in mother-only families that include a grandparent are substantially less likely to be living below or near the poverty level compared to children living in mother-only families without a grandparent present.

Data shows that not only do grandparents provide their time, but they enhance the financial security of children in some circumstances, especially those living in three-generation households.

How to Stay Connected from Afar

When it comes to the grandparent-grandchildren connection, sometimes it’s necessary to care from a distance. In fact, many of these relationships involve a ton of affections and attachment but little day-to-day interaction.

Thankfully, there are many ways to stay connected with grandparents from afar. Here are a few easy ways to stay engaged:

  1. Talk often: Whether it’s over the phone or using an app like FaceTime or Zoom, talking to grandparents regularly can help keep the connection strong and boost the emotional health of all generations. Try to speak at least one to two times per week when you can’t see each other in person.
  2. Have virtual playdates: Who said you couldn’t read books, play board games or do puzzles virtually? You can using video apps like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. This is a great way to engage in playtime, even if you can’t do it face-to-face.
  3. Write letters: There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned letter. Letter writing is great practice for children (and young adults), and there’s something special about receiving a handwritten letter from a loved one. You can include what you’ve been doing throughout the week, your favorite meals, future plans and more. This is also a great opportunity for grandparents to maintain the sense of emotional support that’s so important for grandchildren.
  4. Send photos and videos: If you aren’t able to meet in person, sending digital photos and videos can be a sweet surprise for grandparents. You can also make a photo book online and have it sent to the grandparents as a special gift. This is a great holiday gift idea if you aren’t able to get together this year.
  5. Do a drive-by: These days, drive-bys for loved ones aren’t uncommon. Even parades for birthdays, graduations and other special events have become popular. This is a fun way to show your love and support for someone, even if you can’t be close to that person. A drive-by for grandparents is just a little reminder that they are still special and you miss them. You can make fun posters, cheer and even play music from the car.

Other Ways to Engage with Grandparents

Spending quality time with grandparents promotes the overall health and well-being of the grandparent and grandchild. The ways that you can engage with your grandparent are endless, really. Just sitting around and chatting does the trick.

If you are looking for new ways to engage with your grandparents, here are some ideas:

For older grandchildren:

  • Walk through the park
  • Go out to eat
  • Get a cup of coffee
  • Take a class together
  • Cook dinner together
  • Take a trip
  • Go to a sports game
  • Go to the movies

For younger grandchildren:

  • Go to the playground
  • Go to the library
  • Do a craft together
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Go for a walk
  • Attend a community or school event
  • Go to a sports game
  • Read books
  • Fly a kite

Conclusion

  • It’s hard to explain the importance of grandparents on child development and well-being. Research shows that spending time with grandparents improves a child’s (and adult grandchild’s) mental, emotional and physical health.
  • Grandparents benefits include providing a sense of security, providing childcare, improving mental health, boosting physical health and sharing life-long interests.
  • Even if you can’t be with your grandparents physically, using phone or computer apps to communicate virtually, writing letters and sending photos are great ways to stay engaged and connected.
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