We’ve long known that a parent is the most influential person in a child’s life and that the relationship between parent and child is the most important relationship a child can have. So it’s not surprising, according to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, that the emotional relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is the second most important relationship a child can have.
Grandparents serve many important roles in the lives of children and since roughly three-quarters of parents will become grandparents, it’s important to examine the role grandparents play in the family. Grandparents are invaluable in raising their grandchildren. Increasingly, grandparents find themselves providing part-time care for their grandchildren and even full legal custody. As a result, they help teach life skills such as cooking, cleaning, gardening and repairs that help build the character of their grandchildren. Knowing family history, which is often passed down by grandparents, is also important to the emotional development of grandchildren. In a study from Emory University, researchers measured children’s knowledge about their family history and found that the more that children knew about their families, the higher their self-esteem and sense of control over their lives. Sara Duke is a psychologist who specializes in children with learning disabilities and further explains that, “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” Her husband, Dr. Marshall Duke – a prominent psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta said, “Children who have the most self-confidence have a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.” Even if one or more of the grandparents of a family may have passed, we can still honor their legacy by telling family stories. it’s important to remember them and their rich history.
It’s important that we foster the grandparent-grandchild relationship even into adulthood. Sara M. Moorman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College explains, “We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations. The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health.”
When distance is a factor, letters, phone calls, and video chats can help build the grandparent-grandchild relationship. Building the love and friendship between the generations has significant benefits to both generations.
“A grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.” — Unknown