Did you know that grandparents can play an integral part in their grandchildren’s lives? They have so much wisdom and fun to share with the next generation. Not to mention they just want to love on those little kids that have come from their own children.
But this can only happen when they are allowed to create a close bond with each other. How can this be achieved? What factors are affected by the closeness – or estrangement – of grandparents? We will look at each of these things in more detail to unravel the mystery behind this special relationship.
Benefits of a Close Relationship between Grandparents and Grandchildren
First, let’s look at the benefits that are produced when grandparents are close with their grandchildren.
1. Built-in Support System
Grandparents are a great source of support for both their children and their grandchildren. This support may be physical or it could simply be emotional.
Since grandparents love to spend time with their grandchildren, they don’t usually object to spending one-on-one time if you need a day out or a little bit of help with childcare on occasion.
It’s also good for older children to have someone other than their parents to talk to when important things come up. They may feel more comfortable sharing things with grandparents, and as a parent, you can rest easy knowing they are receiving advice from a reliable source.
2. Demonstrates Good Relationships
Keeping grandparents close in the family helps children learn what a strong relationship looks like first hand. Kids are very observant from a young age, so seeing healthy relationships between their parents and grandparents can teach them a few very important things.
First, it shows what interpersonal relationships look like. They can learn language skills as well as appropriate interactions between people. It is actually shown that a strong relationship between grandchildren and grandparents comes easier to those who also have a strong relationship with the middle generation (parents).
As your child grows, they can continue to learn from the relationship they see between their parents and grandparents. They can learn how adult relationships work between parents and children, helping them to grow up to have a better relationship with their own parents since they have a good example to follow.
3. Different Perspectives
A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can help bridge the age gap between generations. If kept at a distance, the age difference can have children feeling like their grandparents are too old to relate to.
Creating a close relationship between generations helps children to understand the value of an older generation. The bridge between ages seems to shorten a bit when children feel like they can talk to their grandparents in the same way they do their parents and friends.
Children who are close to their grandparents are also exposed to another perspective. Grandparents can offer first hand life wisdom that is invaluable to help grandchildren navigate adulthood. On the flipside, grandchildren can expose their grandparents to different ideas that they may not be exposed to otherwise.
Factors Influenced by Grandparent Closeness
What natural factors are affected by the closeness of a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren? A relationship is a two-way street, both parties affecting each other and helping each other grow and find fulfillment in life.
1. Emotional Bonding
As humans, we all crave relationships that create an emotional bond, something that penetrates beneath the surface and allows you to know someone intimately.
For kids, these relationships can be easy to come by. They naturally feel closer to their parents when they are young, often categorizing grandparents as a second-tier relationship. As they grow into teens, they may make a few connections with friends that are deep and lasting.
Grandparents, while they have had a longer life to make these connections, now find their social circles shrinking due to death or illness. Grandchildren give them a source of emotional connection that is deep (familial) and lasting.
2. Matching Values
In order to create a cohesive family between multiple generation, there needs to be some sort of consensus on values, especially when grandparents are going to play a role in their grandchildren’s lives.
Everyone learns from each other. The older generation may have a more old-fashioned approach to life, but their values are still important. By connecting with the younger generation and both parties remaining open-minded to change and compromise, their values can merge to help them see eye to eye a bit more.
This doesn’t mean that everyone will be 100% in agreement at all times, but it can create better understanding between parties. It also gives grandchildren a better chance of establishing their values and standards with the influence of their family rather than just from modern culture.
3. Creating a “Normal”
You can’t expect a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren to be a normal thing if the family doesn’t put it into practice or make these relationships possible.
It’s important as parents to demonstrate the type of family relationship you want your children to have, whether that is with you or their grandparents. Encourage the presence and involvement of grandparents; this may simply be regular visits and one-on-one time with grandchildren or taking on a bigger role that has them more involved.
Establish the role you want grandparents to have in their grandchildren’s lives. Live out the type of relationship you want your children to have. Teach them that families share obligations, from caring for each other, offering financial assistance, or just sharing general tasks.
Helping to Create a Strong Bond with Grandparents
What can you do to promote an environment and relationship that allows grandparents to build strong bonds with their grandchildren? Simply put, keeping regular contact and allowing grandparents to have an active relationship can help create a stronger bond.
1. Living Nearby
Not surprisingly, physical proximity is one of the best ways to create a strong bond between grandparents and grandchildren. It allows for more frequent visits, creating more opportunities for bonding.
Personality plays a major role in this though. Some grandparents can be very overbearing, making visits without calling and inserting themselves into the everyday life of their grandchildren. It can cause a bit of stress between family members.
However, in most cases grandparents behave normally and respect the boundaries of their extended family. Parents can schedule regular visits and play dates with grandparents to help the bond to grow stronger.
2. Face-to-Face Contact
While physical closeness is the most ideal, this is not always possible. Sometimes job placement or other factors can keep grandparents apart from their families and grandchildren.
Thankfully, with technology today, it is easier to maintain face-to-face contact even across oceans. FaceTime, Skype, and other video chat platforms are a great way for children to know their grandparents, even when living long distance.
3. Frequent Visits
Of course, physical closeness and digital face-to-face contact doesn’t make much of a difference if these “visits” aren’t very frequent. Schedule regular video calls if you live far apart; once a week is probably best.
If you live close, a once per week visit can also be good. Some may choose visits that are more or less frequent; it will vary from family to family.
In some cases, divorce can cause a messy situation when it comes to grandparental visitation. It can lead to one side of grandparents being closer than the other. If at all possible, try to keep both sides of the family cordial for the kids’ sake so they can remain close to both sets of grandparents.
4. Allowing for Hands-On Roles
There is a very common trend today for grandparents to either be figures that are seen and not known, or there is the opposite extreme where grandparents become caretakers for their grandchildren.
Grandparents should be allowed to have a hands-on role with their grandchildren. Some may be considered the “cool” grandparents, who spoil their grandchildren (to a certain degree), or they may be the type that takes charge when mom and dad aren’t around. Either way, they should be involved in a child’s life.
5 Easy Activities to Keep Grandparents and Grandchildren Close
What can grandparents and grandchildren do together in order to strengthen their bond? The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Cooking and Baking
Grandmothers are infamous for their famous recipes. It may be something special that has been passed down through generations or it may just be a signature cookie that you always ate at her house growing up. Either way, most grandmothers have recipes to share with the net generation.
Cooking and baking with grandparents can be a great bonding opportunity. Most kids love to cook – whether it’s just pretending or for real – and they would love to know they’ve taken part in making something Grandma is famous for.
2. Puzzles and Games
I always remember playing games with my grandmother growing up, especially as I got older. We both tend to be competitive, so the games would run late into the night as we enjoyed snacks and chatting time.
From personal experience, I can say that board games are a great way to bond with grandparents. It’s an easy way to interact and let your personality show. Puzzles can be great too, giving you an opportunity to talk together as you work toward a common goal.
3. Outdoors Time
Kids love to spend time outside, and there is just something special about doing something with grandparents that they would usually do with their parents. It adds a whole new level of excitement.
Playgrounds are a great place for kids to show off their skills to Grandma and Grandpa, but it may not be the most social activity. Nature walks or scavenger hunts can be a great way to strike up a conversation and spend more dedicated time together.
4. Lunch Date
Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren, but simply buying a bunch of gifts isn’t enough to create a lasting bond. Nothing brings people together like sharing a meal together. Treating a grandchild to lunch opens up a line of communication and fun.
5. Teach a Hobby
When you have something you love, you want to be able to share it with someone and make them love it too. With a generational difference, children have a lot to learn from their grandparents – and vice versa.
Grandparents can teach a new trade or an older way of doing things, like auto mechanics, painting, or sewing. Grandchildren can introduce something new or trendy, like a new dance or game.
Keeping grandparents close to their grandchildren, allowing them to build a strong and lasting relationship, is great for both physical and emotional health on both sides of the relationship. As the bridge between generations, parents should be supportive of this relationship, making it possible for children to connect with their grandparents on a regular basis.