Our grandchildren accept us for who we are, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends — and hardly ever our own grown children. – Ruth Goode
What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies. – Rudy Giuliani
The quotes stated above by Goode and Giuliani show that the bond between a grandparent and grandchild is a special one, important and beneficial for both. The love that a grandparent has for a child, and the love the child has for his or her grandparents, is far more precious than any other bond in the world because of its potentially fleeting nature. While we accept parents as constants in our lives, children grow up seeing their grandparents as grey and wrinkly and hence liable to be taken away by unfortunate circumstances.
The best symbiotic relationship, it is difficult to say whether the children are at a greater advantage from spending time with grandparents or vice versa. But whether you are a late baby with parents old enough to be grandparents, or whether your hale and hearty maternal and paternal grandparents spoil you at every opportunity they get, here are some reasons why you should spend more time with them:
1. Delays dementia
BrainTest defines dementia as a group of neurodegenerative brain disorders that is generally progressive and incurable and can occur due to a variety of reasons. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia but it has many types such as vascular dementia, mixed dementia and Lewy body dementia.
Coping with dementia is hard, though in the earlier stages individuals can still be fairly independent. In later stages, however, individuals may feel confused and fearful and/or become violent and aggressive which can be challenging for the caregivers. If the caregivers are children and/or grandchildren, it may be tough to see a loved one degenerate and change so much.
To prevent or delay matters to come to a head, a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, indicated spending time with grandchildren to delay the onset of dementia.
The study, which concentrated on postmenopausal women, researched the role of grandparenting in preserving ageing cognition, delaying dementia onset and improving the quality of life. 186 Australian women were assessed cognitively, based on the amount of time they spent minding their grandchildren.
Results indicated that those who spent one day per week taking care of their grandchildren had improved cognitive performance. This could be because those who are mentally active are at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. However, those who spent 5 days or more per week babysitting were too tired and, thus, had a lower processing speed and a poorer working memory performance.
2. Prevents social isolation
A study published in the Boston College chronicle indicates the psychological well-being of both parties is affected positively when they spend time together. “We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations,” said one of the authors of the study, Sociology Assistant Professor Sara Moorman.
Social contact can have significant physiological effects. For example, just holding the hand of a loved one reduces pain and lowers blood pressure. On the other hand, the loneliness that arises from social isolation may result in health problems. A walk, a lunch, a phone call or just a hug from children can help decrease the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
As a person grows older, he begins to feel as if he is lacking competence. Be it retirement or the simple fact that their children are no longer dependent upon them, they start feeling worthless. But, by being emotionally close, maintaining regular contact, and going to them for social support children/grandchild would be establishing a strong bond with them.
When grandparents give tangible help and support and receive the same in return, they feel loved, needed and more connected with the world. This wards off depression, enables them to be more social and allows them to live fuller, happier and, hence, longer lives.
3. Inculcates family values
It is an age old complaint that each generation mostly makes the ones that follow: new generations lack morals, ethics and values of older generations. And although this is usually the occasional crabby observation of the elderly, it holds more than a grain of truth with the way time is moving so fast and the world is becoming so expensive day by day. With parents struggling to make ends meet, holding down two jobs or looking for job fulfilment, they don’t generally have enough time to instil values in their children.
Fortunately, time spent with grandparents can help strengthen family values since they can tell stories about family history that develop a sense of familial pride in children. Furthermore, with ample of free time at hand, the elderly can easily partake in hobbies and activities that emit positivity in their surroundings. So, whether it is having healthy blueberry smoothies that boosts focus and protect against a range of diseases or grilling Omega 3 acid rich salmon, grandparents can instil healthy habits and make the process fun.
Additionally, children of single or divorced parents tend to be a bit lost and are often found acting out. Grandparents can be seen as confidants and sources of comfort. Their bonding with children helps them adjust better in their environment and also makes them learn how to deal with difficult situations.
4. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the “level of ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them,” explains the influential Harvard theorist, Howard Gardner.
For a lot of people, emotional intelligence is more important than IQ, in attaining successful lives and careers. This is because our successes greatly depend on our ability to read and react appropriately to the signals provided by other people.
Spending time with the elderly, be it old parents or grandparents, allows children to learn how people they trust express their emotions. Though this trait is also learned by siblings and parents, the intergenerational relationship and age difference between grandchildren and grandparents helps cement these lessons effectively resulting in emotional intelligence.
For example, when children see that grandpa doesn’t throw a temper tantrum when he loses, they learn how to lose with grace. At other times, when grandma and grandpa talk about one another with affection, children learn how to love and care for others. Though these lessons are most appropriate when growing up, a refresher course in adult life doesn’t hurt either.
5. Social intelligence
Social intelligence, or more commonly known as “people skills”, is the ability to get along well with others by cooperating with them and getting them to cooperate with you. It includes awareness of situations, knowledge of interaction styles, and strategies as to how to smoothly achieve your objective.
While emotional intelligence teaches us how to govern ourselves better, social intelligence tells us how to interact with others in the best way possible. Hence, kids that are emotionally intelligent are better able to navigate interpersonal relationships through social intelligence.
In grandma and grand pa’s house, children learn that they can be safe, secure, and feel loved despite being away from their own homes. They see and learn how other families work and how other relationships succeed, giving them opportunities to relate to people other than their immediate family. Also, they learn how to be nice and caring even when the rules are different than their own home.
Once we have grown up, increasing our social intelligence through interaction with grandparents is not so much as learning through watching, as it is learning through their wisdom. A misunderstanding with friends, a spot with the significant other, a tussle in the workplace, a fight with parents – the elderly have seen and experienced it all. They know the outcomes that different reactions can bring and have the patience to instil that knowledge in you. For this reason, listening to them and taking their advice can veritably increase social intelligence even in adulthood.
6. Life is precious, so is time
The single biggest reason that you should spend time with your elderly parents/grandparents is that they are precious. Precious, by definition, is something that is of great value and generally of limited quantity, such as the time you have with elderly loved ones.
While your entire life stretches ahead of you, your grandparents might not be left with much time. Thus, even if you are busy with friends, exams, spouses or dealing with children of your own, take out the time to pick up the phone or drive over if possible to meet them. In whichever form life is keeping you busy, in most likelihood it will still be there an hour or two from now. But those of old age may not be there next year.
You could have a lifetime of regret in missing out on time that you could have spent with them, or you may not even know what you are missing out on. In either case, make the most of the limited time left and spend it constructively with your grandparents.
Time spent with grandparents gives an abundance of rewards, whether it is by increasing your social skills and emotional intelligence, or by making you learn better values, or it could be just the recipe for those awesome cookies grandmama bakes.
Spending meaningful time with the elderly helps them lead happier and more fulfilled lives and gives you a reservoir of skills and memories to cherish forever.