News from Senior Healthcare Advisors

by Dr. Marilyn B. Field

Being a grandparent can be a huge source of fulfillment for both you and your grandchildren. But, just like with being a parent, there is no job description for the role of a grandparent. Like many grandparents, you may find yourself wondering what your role actually is.

Every family is unique and different, as is the role of every grandparent. Your role depends on the unique circumstances and dynamics of your family, and your personal style. You may or may not live close to your grandchildren and you may not be physically able to participate in childcare. If you live far away, you can still provide support and unconditional love, and lend a sympathetic ear when needed.

It really doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, you can find ways to be a powerful and positive influence on the development of your grandchildren. These guidelines and helpful tips can help you recognize your role and how to adapt to the inevitable challenges to come.

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What Grandchildren Can Receive from their Relationships with Grandparents

A close bond between a child and their grandparent benefits the overall health and wellness of both. The grandchild is exposed to an unwavering supply of love, acceptance, patience, and unconditional support that only grandparents are uniquely able to provide. In healthy grandparent-grandchild relationships, this added layer of love and support can have life-long positive effects on the grandchild’s emotional well-being.

What Grandparents Receive from a Healthy Bond with Grandchildren

Becoming a grandparent changes your life, and brings a renewed sense of optimism, energy, youthfulness, and a grand sense of purpose flowing into your body with an extra shot of adrenaline. A review of the literature revealed recent studies indicating the emotional bond between grandchildren and grandparents can boost brain function, prevent depression, and increase longevity.

Deciding Your Role as a Grandparent

The benefits to a child’s well-being by having a close bond with their grandparents are endless. As a grandparent, you have so many gifts to share that can positively influence your grandchildren in many ways. There are many aspects that come into play as you decide your role as a Grandparent. What type of grandparent do you want to be? Do you naturally fall into a particular role? What are the needs of your grandchildren’s parents (your kids)? How can you best support them? How much time do you realistically have to tend or spend time with them? What are you able to do? Should you move in with them, so you can be of more help? If you live far away, how will you interact? These are all important questions to ask yourself about your role as a grandparent.

Your Changing Grandparent Role

Families never stay the same. Grandchildren become teenagers, and then young adults, so their needs and interests change. Unfortunately, over half of the marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, or maybe a new baby enters the picture. Some Moms go back to work, and your life will change too, as you continue your journey.

How well do you get along as a family? Are there specific dynamics you need to navigate? Make sure to be perfectly clear about the role you can or will play. Keep the lines of communication open and ongoing. As you work out and decide your role, keep in mind that the parents are always in charge. It is their job to parent, not yours. Try to bite your tongue when you want to give advice if it hasn’t been requested. Many families have conflict over unsolicited advice.

As a result, you may find yourself spending more or less time with your grandchildren, or providing extra support to their parents during times of difficulty or change. Be open and willing to revisit your grandparent role as circumstances evolve. You may be able to give more or less of yourself, depending on the family’s needs as well as your own.

You can help out in smaller ways, too! You don’t need to contribute financially to make a difference in the life of your grandchildren. Little things, like giving their parents a date night, or picking them up from school or sporting practices, are a world of help. The most important thing is the quality, not the quantity of time you spend with your grandchildren.

Grandparenting Challenges

While grandparenting can be full of joyous times, it can’t stay rosy all of the time for everyone in the family. You will face some difficult challenges. Family conflict occurs in all families, no matter how close or well-communicative your family is. Past conflicts rearing their ugly heads, and causing you not to have a lot of contact with your grandchildren can be devastating. Do whatever you have to do as a family to resolve any conflict. Life is too short. Family counseling or spiritual advice are great ideas for conflict resolution. In the meantime, send letters, video chat, or anything else possible you can do to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren. Say you’re sorry, even if it wasn’t your fault.