Sunday, September 8 is National Grandparents Day—not only a time to celebrate, but a time to reflect on the importance of having grandparents.
The common thought around grandparents? They are put on Earth to spoil their grandkids.
However, the role of a grandparent can be so much more meaningful that providing birthday gifts and the occasional babysitting service. Grandparents offer their grandchildren a different perspective on life and exposure to the past that they can’t always get from their parents.
Here are just a few ways that grandparents can make the difference in our own and our children’s lives.
Grandparents Contribute to Children’s Well-Being
A University of Oxford study in 2008 showed how grandparents were beneficial to kids, especially to adolescents. The survey of nearly 1,600 children, ages 11 to 16, revealed that heavily involved grandparents often have more time than working parents to support young people in activities and are well placed to talk to their grandchildren about any problems the young people may be experiencing. They were also found to be involved in helping to solve the young people’s problems, as well as talking with them about plans for their future.
Grandparents Can Help Kids Eat Better
Despite the reputation grandparents can have of stuffing little ones with cookies and candy (and almost no one disputes that this happens from time to time), grandparents do have some range of influence in getting kids to eat healthier meals. This is especially true for single working mothers, as discovered in this study that showed that grandparents who are caregivers of kids of single moms did a better job of keeping them active and getting them to eat breakfast more often.
Grandparents are Like Chicken Soup for the Soul
When your kids are feeling ill or sad, grandparents often have just the right capacity to make them feel better. They often have both the patience and the time to really comfort kids, which can be challenging for busy parents.
Grandparents can also stave off depression. A 2016 study from Boston University, as reported by U.S. News, found that grandparents who have strong relationships with their adult grandchildren make a difference in keeping depression at bay on both sides of the equation.
Grandparents Offer Insight to the “Way Life Used to Be”
If you ask them, grandparents can offer a treasure trove of stories about the way life was “way back when.” Long before the Internet, social media and smart phones came along. Back when TV was only in black and white, phones were rotary dial, and kids made up their own games and entertainment. Tap into these living history books—you may be surprised at how interesting their stories are.
What do you do if your children don’t have grandparents? Look for grandparent “substitutes.” You will likely find other family members or friends that are willing to step in and play the role of grandparent. While it’s not quite the same as the real deal, it will give your child exposure to older adults who are loving, kind and will make a lasting impression. So on Grandparents Day this year, celebrate the grandparents, or grandparent-like people, who are part of your and your childrens’ lives. Buy them flowers, bring them dinner, make them a card or just sit down and have a meaningful conversation with them.