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The importance of grandparents

When you think of your grandparents, what memories come to mind?

Being taught how to measure while baking in the kitchen with grandma? Walking around the garden learning about how things grow with grandpa? You may not have known it at the time, but the hours spent with the elders in your family helped to shape who you are today.

“Children and teens highly benefit from having adult champions in their lives and grandparents can often offer this role of someone who cares about them, sees their strengths and has their best interest at heart,” says Chantal Côté, registered psychologist and founder of Pyramid Psychology.

“Grandparents can be the keepers of special family traditions, unique skills, and ancestral stories. Having a positive relationship with grandparents can be a way of sharing these important elements.”

She adds that being around people they love who are much older than them is also a way of increasing empathy in children and social skills in relating to others across generations.

Parents’ role

As a parent, you may be wondering how you can help your parents (or in-laws) connect with your kiddos.

Chantal suggests making time for them to connect regularly (whether that is virtually, on the phone or in person).

“Talk to grandparents and collaborate on time together and activities,” she adds.

Depending on the physical fitness and mobility of your parents, these activities can include walks to a park or playground, short hikes (see story on page13), playing board games, visiting an attraction such as the TELUS Spark or the Calgary Zoo, cooking or baking, gardening or any activity that the children enjoy.

Chantal adds that parents can also contribute to the bond between grandparents and children by talking to their children about their grandparents and sharing stories of their own childhood with them.

Who doesn’t like to hear stories or see pictures of when their parents were kids?

Benefits to grandparents

Kids are not the only ones who see improvements in their lives when they connect with their grandparents.

Your mom and dad (or in-laws) will also see a myriad of benefits.

“Grandparents can benefit from the curiosity and vitality of their grandchildren, which can benefit memory, and even physical and emotional health benefits of spending time together,” says Chantal.

Studies have shown that investing time in this important family relationship can decrease the risk of depression, improve mental capacity, reduce 

isolation and possibly even lead to a longer life in the older generation.

“We can often undervalue the importance of this bond,” says Chantal. 

“Grandparents can be key influencers and support people in their grandchildren's overall well-being and benefit equally in these relationships, leading to a richer quality of life for them.”

How much time?

When it comes to how much time grandparents and kids should spend together, the answer is different for every family.

“Consistency is important, and quality is important,” says Chantal.  

“Some grandparents are instrumental in the daily care of children and others may not have such a role. Even if grandparents and grandchildren can't see each other as often, there are other ways of maintaining that bond.”

She suggests text messages, email, sending a letter in the mail, Facetime, birthday cards and creating special occasions to celebrate accomplishments.

Chantal adds that the elder a child bonds with doesn’t necessarily have to be their grandparent by relation if circumstances prevent a biological grandparent from filling this role. It could be a family friend, neighbor, teacher, instructor, coach or another mentor.

It is clear that there are many benefits to your kids spending more time with grandma and grandpa, so what are you waiting for? Get to planning your next adventure together!

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