Why Grandparents Are Superheroes
Grandparents Have Superpowers!
When my family lived in Montana, my children got to spend a lot of time with their grandparents. Gram and Pop, as my boys lovingly call them, lived just minutes away. They were very involved with their grandsons on a daily basis, regularly picking them up from school or inviting them for sleepovers. When she wasn’t cooking delicious meals for all of us at her house, Gram was often “babysitting” at ours. Gram and Pop both did whatever it took, swooping in here and there to save the day like a pair of magnanimous, albeit understated, superheroes. Once, Gram even volunteered to help out at school, serving scones with clotted cream while my son gave a presentation about our British ancestry. (I was really bummed to miss that one, but what could a working mom do?) All I could say was “Thank goodness for Gram and Pop!”
Then we moved. My boys still talk with Gram and Pop almost daily. (Now I say, “Thank goodness for Facetime.) While we all dearly miss the frequent in-person interaction, I am grateful for the established relationship my boys have with their grandparents. It is easy to see how much my children have learned and gained from their grandparents’ altruistic influence. This influence has helped shape who my children are, and will no doubt continue to do so throughout their lives.
A few years back, a study was published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, which offered scientific validation for the importance of grandparental involvement. (As if we didn’t already know, right?) According to this study, researchers Jeremy Yorgason, Laura Padilla-Walker, and Jami Jackson collected data from more than 400 families with fifth grade children to determine if grandparental influence has any effect, positive or negative, on children’s development and behavior.
The results of the study indicated a definitive correlation between involved grandparents and the development of “pro-social” behaviors in fifth graders. By pro-social, they were referring to kind, helpful, and/or empathetic behavior toward others. Simply put, when grandparents are consistently involved in their grandchildren’s lives, the children tend to be nicer people. (Again, I’d say this is hardly a revelation for many of us, but scientists will be scientists.)
Lead researcher, Jeremy Yorgason, surmises that this correlation is due to grandparents' positive, encouraging role with children, as opposed to the parents who are busy trying to be disciplinarians. Also according to Yorgason, regular interaction with caring adults who are outside the immediate family helps develop pro-social skills. “Grandparents matter above and beyond parents,” said Yorgason. “They are an important resource.”
When I asked my own children why they think that grandparents are important, here’s what they had to say:
“I like to call Gram, especially when I am frustrated.” (He pronounces this word fer-us-ter-a-ted.) “She knows what’s wrong. I like that she always wants to talk to me.” ~AG, 10 years old.
“Grandparents are important because they are adults, besides your parents, that love you and care about you. They do a lot of helpful stuff for us. They are also really smart because they have lived for, like, seventy years or something.” ~ZQ, 12 years old.
Well that sums it up nicely, don't you think? No question about it, grandparents can and do make a big difference in the lives of their grandchildren.
Relationships with grandparents, parents, and other caregivers all have a profound impact on the development of our children. For more information about the how’s and why’s of these important relationships, please follow this link to Age of Montessori’s free webinar replay entitled “Partnering Together for Our Children.” This webinar will provide a deeper understanding of how to honor each unique perspective without judgment–dads, moms, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers--while advocating for the child’s true needs in an atmosphere of harmony. You'll be glad you did!