The health ben­e­fits of grand­par­ent-grand­child re­la­tion­ships a good thing

The Weekly Vista - - News -

In the not-so-dis­tant past, ex­tended fam­i­lies were the norm, with mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions re­sid­ing on the same street if not in the same house.

To­day the fam­ily unit is largely an amal­gam of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. The rise of two-in­come fam­i­lies has pres­sured par­ents into find­ing child­care sit­u­a­tions. Quite of­ten grand­par­ents once again step in to of­fer guid­ance and sup­port for young­sters. This can be a good thing for both the grand­par­ents and the grand­chil­dren.

Al­though a bevy of psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search fo­cuses on par­ent-child re­la­tion­ships, new ev­i­dence points to the ben­e­fits of the grand­child-grand­par­ent re­la­tion­ship as well. Close re­la­tion­ships be­tween these dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics is of­ten a sign of strong fa­mil­ial ties.

A study from re­searchers at Bos­ton Col­lege dis­cov­ered that emo­tion­ally close ties be­tween grand­par­ents and adult grand­chil­dren re­duced de­pres­sive symp­toms in both groups. Re­search at the Univer­sity of Oxford among English chil­dren be­tween the ages 11 and 16 found that close grand­par­ent-grand­child re­la­tion­ships were as­so­ci­ated with ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing fewer emo­tional and be­hav­ioral prob­lems and fewer dif­fi­cul­ties with peers.

Adults and grand­chil­dren alike ben­e­fit from re­la­tion­ships with their el­ders. Grand­par­ents can pro­vide a con­nec­tion and ex­po­sure to dif­fer­ent ideas while pro­vid­ing a link to fam­ily his­tory and knowl­edge re­gard­ing tra­di­tions and cus­toms not read­ily avail­able else­where.

Nur­tur­ing grand­par­ent-grand­child ex­pe­ri­ences may be easy for fam­i­lies where grand­par­ents live in the same house or close by. For oth­ers, it may take some ef­fort. The fol­low­ing are some ways to fa­cil­i­tate time spent to­gether.

• Sched­ule reg­u­lar fam­ily re­u­nions or get-to­geth­ers. Host or plan multi-gen­er­a­tion events that bring the fam­ily to­gether and ex­pose chil­dren to var­i­ous mem­bers of their fam­ily.

• Pro­mote one-on-one time. Have grand­chil­dren spend time with grand­par­ents in in­ti­mate set­tings. Alone time can be good for both and of­fers each un­di­vided at­ten­tion. A meal at a restau­rant or time spent do­ing a puz­zle or craft can be in­ter­est­ing to both gen­er­a­tions in­volved.

• Video chat when pos­si­ble. If dis­tance makes fre­quent vis­its chal­leng­ing, use tech­nol­ogy to bridge that gap. Send pho­tos, let­ters and elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Tech-savvy grand­par­ents can use Skype or Face­time to stay in touch and speak one-on-one with their grand­chil­dren.

• Share skills with each other. Ei­ther gen­er­a­tion can play teacher to the other. Grand­par­ents may have cer­tain skills, such as bak­ing, sewing or wood crafts, they can im­part what may not be read­ily taught to­day. Chil­dren can help grand­par­ents nav­i­gate com­put­ers, video games or sports ac­tiv­i­ties.

Cour­tesy photo

To­day the fam­ily unit is largely an amal­gam of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. The rise of two-in­come fam­i­lies has pres­sured par­ents into find­ing child­care sit­u­a­tions. Quite of­ten grand­par­ents once again step in to of­fer guid­ance and sup­port for young­sters. This can be a good thing for both the grand­par­ents and the grand­chil­dren.

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