“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” —Alex Haley
The relationships that children have with their grandparents vary from culture to culture and from family to family. Many of us carry fond memories of the flavors out of grandma's cookbook, the smell of grandpa's shed and of those moments spending the holidays together.
In cultures across the world it's not uncommon for grandparents to be heavily involved or to even be the primary care providers for their baby and toddler aged grandchildren. In China it's not uncommon for grandparents to jump in and help in the child rearing, so common in fact that an estimated ~70% of children under 2 are raised by their grandparents. Even in the U.S. an estimated 7% of children are living under the primary care of their grandparents.
While their motivations may often be born of necessity or the desire to help their children pursue their professional goals; this grandchild-grandparent relationship has some BIG ancillary benefits.
The research is clear, strong relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren have mutual healthy benefits for EVERYONE involved!
A recent study published in the UKs Journal of Family issues surveyed nearly 1,500 children and demonstrated that the children with the most involved grandparents had the fewest emotional and behavioral problems.
In particular, children with "more regular contact and stronger grandparent/grandchild closeness...were less likely to have adjustment problems.. to be depressed, anxious, worried, or aggressive and difficult at school."
It's also been suggested that greater child contact with adults can increase emotional intelligence and that spending time with grandparents during early life can lead to higher EQ in adulthood!
That nice bit of science supports the notion that a Grandparents expressed love for their Grandchildren will endow them with the extra self confidence, extra wisdom and a greater sense of security to live a happier and healthier life.
On the other side of the coin; time with the Grand kids is also proven to improve Grandpa and Grandma's health and can SIGNIFICANTLY increase life expectancy!
A study published in the medical journal of Evolution and Human Behavior included 500 adults aged 70 years and older.
Participants were asked about their frequency of care for their grandchildren in were split into 3 groups; Care giving Grandparents, Non-Care giving Grandparents and Non-Grandparents.
The result of the study demonstrated that grandparents that were involved with their grandchildren had a 37% reduced risk of death over their peers without grandchildren or those who did not have relationships with their grandchildren.
Multiple other studies also demonstrate that time with grandchildren helps to improve physical health, energy levels and the cognitive abilities of grandparents; and may even offer protective benefits against dementia and Alzheimer's!
This growing amount of evidence confirms what we already intuitively know; that if you've been blessed with grandchildren then sharing your time with them will lead to a happier and healthier life for the both of you.
But the kids really do grow up fast so be sure to make the most of your time together!