Your children will have greater success in life if they take a trip to visit Granny this summer.
It’s true! And here’s why.
First, a Little Background
I had a lovely conversation with my 10-year old grand-niece this morning. (I love that technology allows for her to include us in her everyday life) She’s currently in the deep south visiting her grandparents while Mom and Dad are back home, about 1,000 miles away, with their newborn.
My niece told me all about their trip and how much fun they’re having. First, she and her siblings got to ride on an airplane. They arrived safely at “Camp Grammy and Grampy” and settled into a nice routine. There’s been movie watching and fishing and lots of adventure-taking…to say I’m envious is an understatement!
Our little chat got me thinking about what a blessing this trip is for everyone – mom and dad, the kids, and the grandparents – and I decided to do some digging around to see if there is any truth to the generally held understanding that grandparents matter. Specifically, I wanted to find out if there was empirical evidence to indicate that grandparents were a valuable addition to children’s lives – one which positively contributes to their later success. Like, real data that shows it’s true. And guess what I found out….it is!
Now, a Little Research
A study by the University of Oxford showed that children were happier when under the care of their grandparents than kids who weren’t. Similarly, some researchers at BYU found that a child’s strong emotional bond with grandparents has a positive influence on character development, psychological health, and school performance. Kids with good grandparental relationships also show greater self-esteem and kindness which, in terms, make them better at making and keeping friendships. And a Boston University study found that these same kids had a decreased incidence of depression (as did their grandparents, interestingly enough). But why? How are grandparent relationships different from the interactions that kids have with other adults?
Well, I hope we’ve all seen that in action. There is a special kind of connection between grandparents and their grandchildren. We feel it the moment we first learn of their upcoming birth. It’s a similar love-bond that parents enjoy with their children, but without the financial pressures, the sleepless nights, and the grind of schedules and homework and discipline.
Most grandparents are in a phase of life where they can slow down and release the pressures of our younger years. Our careers are secured or, even, behind us. We’ve gained the wisdom and perspective of 45 or more years under our belts. And we can enter the grandparenting years with a solid foundation – psychologically, financially and relationally. We love our grandkids with a love that does not seek anything in return….that lavishes attention and affection with no strings attached. Who couldn’t use a little more unconditional love, right?
The Seven Works of Grandparenting Why Your Kids Need to Visit Their Grandparents
Dr. James Bates has identified seven uniquely impactful grandparenting interactions (works) that have a positive influence on kids. As I look at each work, I remember specific instances of my own parents sharing these interactions with my son. How about you?
- Lineage work – Sharing stories of the family history. Visiting battlefield sites and telling the stories of the warrior men and valiant women. Visiting the old homestead and telling funny stories about great uncles and grandparents, long deceased. Looking through old photo albums and sharing the accompanying tales.
- Mentoring work – Teaching how to make a birdhouse, to carve a pumpkin, to bake cookies and wash the dishes. All of these are practical skills that seem to be much easier to learn when taught with the love and patience of a grandparent.
- Spiritual work – Not only did my parents speak life to Nathan’s spirit by loving him so purely, they showed (and mom continues to do so) their faith in God and displayed Christ’s love in a way that was utterly holy and pure…sometimes without saying a word.
- Character work – I’m not sure there has been any greater influence on my son’s character than my dad. He was a man of character who cared about people and lived with integrity. My son, now 30, still talks about his desire to be a man like his Grandpa. It’s important to remember that character is taught more through what children see than by what we tell them. So, live what you believe. (It also helps that we don’t spend 24/7 with our grandkids. Our inevitable flaws don’t show quite so easily when we can send them home and take a nap. But when we do mess up, it is our character that shows the kids how to navigate our humanness with grace..)
- Recreational work – I’m not sure anyone does play better than some grandparents. Many of my son’s favorite memories are of camping and fishing with his grandparents, of his opportunities to attend Boy Scout camp and Jamboree and, especially, of trips to DisneyWorld! It was his grandparents’ financial stability that afforded him the freedom to enjoy recreational activities that he would have otherwise missed. Which brings us to…
- Investment work – It is a blessing when grandparents are in a position to guide their grandchildren toward becoming financially responsible adults. Whether it’s setting up college funds, home investment fund or helping with the first car, grandparents have an opportunity to help launch their grandchildren into a secure adulthood through investing, teaching and modeling financial responsibility.
- Family Identity work – My son is proud to be a Montgomery. Yes, we have an interesting family, but he is proud to be a Montgomery because he associates the name with his grandparents: honor, kindness, laughter, adventure, and deep, deep love. It is a grandparent’s honor and, indeed, responsibility to teach their grandchild to be proud (in a healthy way) of who they are and where they come from.
What a Blessing!
By speaking life, showing love, displaying integrity, telling stories and playing hard, grandparents are blessed with the opportunity to share a love with their grandchildren which fosters “the big three”: unconditional acceptance, security, and significance. With these foundations for life under their belt, grandchildren find a safe place to land when things get tough.
Remember when we talked about resilience and the need for everyone to have just one person? Well, grandparents are in a unique position to be that one person.
So, I’m thinking back to the kids at Camp Grammy and Grampy…as they sit around the campfire tonight, roasting S’mores and laughing with Nay-Nay and Poppa and how lucky they are. When they fall asleep tonight under a grandma’s quilt, with butterfly kisses and bedtime prayers, they will be soaking in a legacy of love that will lay a foundation for their later success. If they cry in the night, they will be comforted by arms that have been a strength to them since their first hours of life. When they wake, they will open their eyes in a home that is safe and warm and welcomes them to a new day with eyes that light up when they enter the room. What could be better than that?!
It’s that feeling…that unconditional love…that makes me say every kid must visit the grandparents this summer. It will be so good for their hearts.
**Disclaimer: This article is aimed at healthy families. If there is any reason to believe that your kids wouldn’t be safe, physically or emotionally, with their grandparents then you need to do what is best for your family. Surrogate Grandparents can be a huge blessing, too!