Close Relationship with Grandparents Benefits Grandchildren

Sunday September 9 is Grandparents’ Day. Research shows that having a close relationship with grandparents can provide a benefit for children both now and later.

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CLEVELAND – Everyone knows it’s grandma’s job to spoil the grandkids.

And research shows that having a close relationship with grandparents can provide a benefit for children beyond extra treats when they’re young.

According to Vanessa Jensen, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, grandparents can serve as an extension of family members who love and care for a child.

“The more people who love your child, the better,” she said. “Presumably if they’re reasonably healthy people and reasonable in their approach to how they care for your child – it never hurts to have more people who can care about an individual child or a family.” 

Previous research has shown that having close emotional ties between a grandparent and grandchild can actually reduce depressive symptoms for both.

As people are living longer, experts say these bonds are becoming both more common and more significant.

Dr. Jensen said grandparents can play an important role for children, especially in families where there isn’t an abundance of social connections, or for children with families going through divorce.

She said it’s important for parents to remember that the dynamics between a grandparent and child are different than those of a parent and child – and that sometimes parents and grandparents can have different or conflicting views.

For the most part, though, she recommends allowing children to do things differently when they’re spending time at grandma and grandpa’s house.

In other words, it’s okay to let grandma spoil the grandkids as long as it’s within reason.

“For a typical grandparent, where a child visits, it can be a great way to experience a different activity; if grandma and grandpa live in a different city; if they live on a farm; if they’re around other cousins – it’s almost like a little mini-vacation – and I often tell parents, ‘let it be a vacation,” said Dr. Jensen. 

Dr. Jensen said it’s important to remember though, that when a grandparent is also playing the role of caregiver for a large portion of the time, it’s not always possible for them to spoil the grandkids and send them home. In these cases, she said it’s important to establish consistent expectations for time spent with the grandparents.

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