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More Than Just Cookies: Why Grandparents are Important to Your Kids

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My maternal grandparents lived in a small town near my hometown, and we visited weekly. I have many fond memories of spending the night at their house, going camping with them, eating pancakes that my grandma made and learning about bluegrass music from my grandpa. My Grandpa Tink is still alive, is in amazing health and is still playing his banjo. He is a staple during my visits home, and my son loves spending time exploring Great-Grandpa Tink's house for treasures just as I once did. I cherish my relationship with my grandpa and am thankful to have him as a part of my life. Can you recall pleasant memories of your grandparents or other older role models during your childhood? Those intergenerational relationships were important to you growing up and are important for your children as they grow as well.

Grandparents offer a lot more than just free babysitting every once in awhile. Intergenerational relationships between your children and their grandparents provide multiple benefits. Besides the obvious reasons of growing up with strong family bonds and memories, your children can also learn multiple lessons from grandparents about emotional and social intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to be aware of, control and express emotions, is a trait that your children will be watching and learning throughout their lives. When they spend time with their grandparents, your children will learn how people they trust, besides their parents, express their emotions. If they play a game and see that grandma doesn't throw a fit when she doesn't win, your children will learn how to handle disappointment. If they cook dinner with grandpa and hear him talk about how much he appreciates grandma, your children will learn how to love and care for others.

Emotionally intelligent kids are able to better navigate interpersonal relationships through social intelligence. Grandma and grandpa's home is the perfect place to start showing your children that they are loved, safe and secure in other homes. Your children need to see how other families work, how other relationships succeed and how other homes can be safe and loving too. Hanging out with grandma and grandpa gives your children the chance to relate to people other than you and your partner. Your children will learn how to be nice, how to be caring, how to act when you aren't around and how to follow rules that might be different than the rules in your home. Your children will enjoy developing a relationship with their grandparents that is special just to them.

If you do not live close to grandparents or if they are no longer in the picture due to death or other circumstances, your children can still establish beneficial intergenerational relationships with older adults. For example, my son also has a nurturing and loving relationship with his day care provider's husband. We call him Uncle Joe. He has been a wonderful addition to my son's life, and we are thankful for Uncle Joe for stepping in as another grandfather figure.

Grandparents or other intergenerational mentors in your children's lives are valuable, so you may want to consider adding more grandma and grandpa time to your kids' schedules or even rebooting your relationship with the grandparents if the relationship needs some TLC.

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