September 10, 2023, is National Grandparent’s Day, a day set aside to honor grandparents and the special connections they have with their grandchildren. It is celebrated annually on the first Sunday after Labor Day after being signed into law in 1978.
“The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is singularly unique and influential,” said Rebecca Philpot, an Advanced Practice Clinician who cares for residents at The Heritage, an independent and assisted living facility. “Many studies report that children who have a positive relationship with their grandparents have better self-esteem, fewer behavioral issues and better social skills with their peers. Likewise, grandparents who regularly interact with their grandchildren are generally healthier and suffer less depression.”
The website Love to Know lists 14 reasons why it’s important for kids to spend time with grandparents … and vice-a-versa:
- Grandparents increase a child’s emotional intelligence.
- Spending time with grandparents can reduce ageism.
- Grandparents enhance pro-social behaviors.
- Spending time with grandparents can increase happiness for both, reducing rates of depression in both groups.
- Grandparents can provide family history.
- Grandparents offer positive physical touch, which again helps both groups.
- Grandparents offer insight into a child’s parents, which helps to humanize parents.
- Grandparents are happy to teach a new skill.
- Time with grandparents strengthens intergenerational bonds.
- Grandparents teach/give kids unconditional love.
- Grandparents can aid in childcare.
- Spending time with grandkids helps grandparents live longer.
“Grandparents also experience other benefits from interacting with grandchildren,” said Philpot. “It generally increases brain health for grandparents, keeps them more physically active and more social, all of which increases the grandparents’ mental and physical health.”
She noted that although there are many positive gains for those relationships, grandparents who are full-time caregivers don’t necessarily receive the same benefits.
“Grandparents who are primary caregivers for grandchildren are typically more challenged in their relationships with them,” said Philpot. “Ideally, one or two days a week of providing child care is the most grandparents should be responsible for. Beyond that, the benefits of grandchild/grandparent interactions can become less beneficial.”
Other benefits for grandparents include a healthier immune system – likely because they’re exposed to more germs via their interaction with grandchildren that boosts their immune system activity. Many grandparents also say that being a grandparent encourages them to lead a healthier lifestyle so they’ll be a part of their grandchildren’s lives longer.
Another study of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren showed that when people engage in activities out of choice rather than need, their approach, attitudes and interactions are much more positive, and kids pick up on that positive vibe quickly.
Engaging with the younger generation also helps grandparents keep familiar with emerging technology.
“Today’s teens, and even tweens, are obviously active on technology devices and social media platforms,” said Philpot. “Oftentimes, that’s one of the easiest ways for grandparents to maintain a connection with their grandchildren, which requires that grandparents keep reasonably familiar with using cell phones, tablets and computers and skills such as texting or interacting on social media platforms. Those can be practical challenges for aging brains. Learning any new skill is beneficial for brain health.”
Grandparents can also teach the grandkids skills such as cooking, sewing, carpentry or mechanics; or introduce them to traditional hobbies such as knitting, crocheting, fishing, hunting, and many other activities.
The group Generations United encourages families to “do something grand” around Grandparents Day to honor the special connection between grandkids and grandparents. It recommends activities such as taking a walk in a local park, having a special meal using a favorite family recipe or doing craft or other hobby projects.
“The benefits of the interplay of what one generation can teach another go both ways in the grandparent/grandchild relationship,” said Philpot. “The legacy that my grandparents instilled in my life is one that I carry with me every day in my practice. Unconditional love can flow both ways and there’s no greater gift.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
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