Cultivating a Close Relationship with Grandparents
By Christina Pay, USU Extension Assistant Professor
A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is mutually beneficial when it comes to the health and well-being of both. Grandparents provide acceptance, patience, love, stability, wisdom, fun and support to their grandchildren. This, in turn, has positive effects on a child’s well-being. A study by Sara Moorman, PhD. and Jeffrey Stokes found that children who grow up with greater emotional closeness to their grandparents are less likely to be depressed as adults (Moorman & Stokes, 2016). For grandparents, a close relationship with their grandchildren can boost brain function (Arpino & Bordone, 2014), protect against depression (Moorman & Stokes, 2016), and increase their lifespan (Hilbrand, et al., 2017). In today’s world where many families may not live in close proximity to each other how can parents help cultivate a close relationship between their children and grandparents?
Parents can help grandparents and grandchildren build close relationship by encouraging frequent contact. Where possible, grandparents should be invited to visit their grandchild’s home often. However, while physical distance may present some challenges, there are things that can be done to foster frequent contact.
Visit often. When grandparents live in a different town or state planning a trip to visit them can fill your child with anticipation and excitement. Even if the visits are infrequent they will help your child view the time spent together with their grandparents as special.
Use technology. There are so many options available! Zoom, Facetime, email, texting, Instagram, etc., all of which can facilitate staying in contact. Grandparents can record themselves reading a bedtime story to share with their grandchildren. Grandchildren can send personalized messages and photos. Both with the same result of keeping in contact and staying close.
Share Photos. Place photos of grandparents in your home and point them out to your children often. You can also create a family photo album to page through while naming family members. Your children may not be able to see their grandparents frequently, but they will learn who they are and feel of their importance in the family.
Write letters. Who doesn’t love to receive mail? Encourage communication via mail or email with both grandparents and grandchildren participating. Both will anticipate the regular communication and both will be thrilled to receive responses.
Teach Skills. Whether it is fishing or sewing many grandparents have a hobby or skill they would love to pass on to their grandchildren. This teaching can be done in person or using technology. Make sure your children have the necessary tools and materials to learn from their grandparents.
Climb the Family Tree. Children of all ages enjoy learning about their family history. Ask grandparents to share family stories and ancestry. Perhaps they can help your children draw a family tree.
- Arpino, B., & Bordone, V. (2014). Does grandparenting pay off? The effect of child care on grandparents' cognitive functioning. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(2), 337-351. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12096
- Dowshen, S., MD (Ed.). (2017). Bonding with grandparents. Kids Health. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from https://kidshealth.org/Nemours/en/parents/grandparents.html
- Hilbrand, S., Coall, D. A., Gerstorf, D., & Hertwig, R. (2017). Caregiving within and beyond the family is associated with lower mortality for the caregiver: A prospective study. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(3), 397-403. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.11.010
- Moorman, S. M., PhD, & Stokes, J. E., MA. (2016). Solidarity in the grandparent–adult grandchild relationship and trajectories of depressive symptoms. The Gerontologist, 56(3), 408-420. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu056