Granddad (and Grandma), we love you
My children have just returned from a weekend with their grandma and had a wonderful time of undivided attention, traditional home cooking and a break from their usual routine. Until I had children, I didn’t appreciate the important role that grandparents – and other extended family members - play in a child’s life. By being one step removed from the day-to-day responsibilities, grandparents, aunts and uncles can interact with young relatives on a different level and help children make sense of the world.
Research shows that grandparents can contribute greatly to a child’s wellbeing. Teenagers, in particular, sometimes find it difficult to communicate with their parents, yet form close bonds with other members of the extended family who are perhaps less judgemental and more objective. In cases of family breakdown, grandparents and the wider family can help in providing stability and comfort, as well as being role models – the Grandparents Plus charity offers advice in this area.
Grandparents often have more time to focus on their grandchildren’s interests and hobbies. They have their own experiences and traditions which can be shared and passed on too. And whilst we may have grown tired of hearing granddad’s stories about the war, younger children love to hear and learn about the ‘olden days’.
On a practical level, it’s hard to find better childcare than the extended family – even if they don’t always do things quite the same way. It is estimated that over 7 million grandparents look after their grandchildren on a regular basis. Of course, most of us don’t like to be told how to parent, but grandparents can be a huge source of advice and reassurance during difficult times.
Certainly, my in-laws were invaluable when our children were babies, looking after them when we needed childcare or a break. When the children started school they would visit weekly, listen attentively to the details of school life and marvel at the children’s artwork. Grandma is the energetic one and Granddad the joker, doing everything I would like to do if I had more time (and patience!). Sadly Granddad has Alzheimer’s disease and is now in a nursing home. We all miss his silly jokes and funny stories. But we still talk about him a lot and the children are also learning to deal with other aspects of life, love and getting older.
Not everyone is able to live near to their extended family but with email, texts, photo sharing websites, voice-over-the-internet and webcams (not forgetting letters and phone calls), it has never been easier to keep in touch. See the BBC Learning support site for details about information technology resources. Who knows what type of technology will be around in the future, but I’m hoping I will have the chance to be an actively involved – and not interfering – grandma!