[Click here to sign up for the Joy of Grandparenting workshop.]
One of life’s great pleasures can be in the role of a grandparent. Grandparenting adds richness, depth, sweetness, and just plain fun to life.
Grandparents can be a great gift in the lives of our grandchildren and their parents. And grandparenting can be one of life’s greatest gifts to us as grandparents.
Not only is the bond between grandparent and grandchild powerful, grandparenting also comes with some added health benefits. Studies have shown a connection between grandparenting and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and social isolation.
One study found that grandmothers who babysat once a week scored higher on cognitive tests versus those who did not. Researchers tested the cognitive ability of 186 women, aged between 57 and 68, and found that grandmothers who looked after their grandchildren once a week had the greatest cognitive ability.
The National Institute on Aging also says that watching grandchildren helps seniors be more healthy and active. Hugging and holding hands with grandchildren can increase oxytocin (the “love drug”) levels, which can reduce stress and provide a sense of security.
In Parenting Now!’s Joy of Grandparenting workshop, we talk about how to make the most of our experience as grandparents.
Successful grandparenting begins with understanding changing family roles. When our children become parents, there is a shift in our relationships, which can be confusing at times. Our children are still our children, yet they are also adults, and they are the parents of our grandchildren.
Keeping this dynamic in mind, the following suggestions can begin to build a fulfilling family and grandparenting relationship:
- Above all, it’s critical to RESPECT AND SUPPORT the parents of our grandchildren. They are the gatekeepers to the adventures, experiences, history, tradition, and love we can bring to our grandchildren’s lives (and our own).
- Parents decide the way our grandchildren are raised. They make the rules. If in doubt about what the rules are, be sure to check.
- We need to be there for both parents in every way we can, and for them to know they can count on us.
- If we have ideas to contribute, it’s best to offer them as suggestions and not as criticisms. Remember that parenting is one of the most challenging roles there is.
A lot has changed about parenting practices since we raised our children. Some of the current thinking is very different from the past: from infant sleeping positions (now on baby’s back), crib safety (no bumpers, stuffed animals or blankets), when to introduce certain foods, discipline, research on brain development, and so much more. It’s helpful to be open, stay current, and follow the parent’s lead.
Local grandparent to five kids, ranging in age from 3 to 16, Liz Johnson knows a thing or two about navigating that delicate balance between being helpful but also listening to her children’s requests.
“By all means offer help, but if the parent says, ‘I think we’re doing OK’ or something to that effect, try and gracefully accept that without pushing unwanted help or unsolicited advice.”
Johnson says seeing her adult children with their own children is “really magical.”
“If you think that the years with your own children flew by, it seems to go even faster as we get older,” Johnson says. “The time spent with them will become your most treasured memories.”
She adds: “We love to watch our grandchildren’s joy at simple pleasures, as well as reading to them and being amazed at how funny and smart they are! We love really taking the time to do the things that we were sometimes too busy to do with our own kids when they were young. We love the way that they feel so special when they are with us. Just like we both felt when we were with our own grandparents.”
The next Joy of Grandparenting workshop, which explores ways to make the most of the grandparenting experience, coming up at Parenting Now! will be Oct. 21. The workshop is $39 or $60 for a couple. Click here to sign up for the Joy of Grandparenting or call us at 541.484.5316.
This article appeared in the September 2017 Healthy Families section of The Register-Guard.