Importance of Grandparents to Their Grandchildren
My four-year-old daughter asks about her deceased grandparents almost daily. Her question to me or her mother usually goes something like this: "Will we see Grandma and Grandpa again someday?" Her words help us and her siblings keep in our minds and hearts these vital figures in our family's history.
Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, though it is often indirect. Most of their significance to children is seen through the support and help they give to their parents. Grandparents are often seen as "stress buffers," family "watchdogs," "roots," "arbitrators," and "supporters."
Research suggests that children find unique acceptance in their relationships with grandparents, which benefits them emotionally and mentally. Grandparents can be a major support during family disruptions. Sometimes they're playmates for their grandchildren. They're very often role models and mentors for younger generations. They are also historians -- teaching values, instilling ethnic heritage, and passing on family traditions.
The Importance of Grandparents
The importance of grandparents in the lives of children can't be denied. Before our culture became so mobile, it was common for children to grow up surrounded by extended family, including one or both sets of grandparents; who often moved in with their adult children when they became frail.
My own childhood mirrored this now quaint picture of the past, and I've always felt happy about the fact that my children grew up involved with both sets of their grandparents.
Yet, even as my kids were growing up with weekly grandparent visits as a regular part of their lives, they were already in the minority. Many of their friends rarely saw their own grandparents, who often lived hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. Even with the obstacle of distance, I heard many of these young children talk excitedly about seeing grandparents whenever they could.
In recent years—often because of economic issues—a reversal of this trend is bringing a significant number of families back to the idea of sharing responsibilities and, in some cases, living spaces.
According to Pew Research Social Trends, a record 57 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population of the United States, lived in multi-generational family households in 2012. That's double the number who lived in such households in 1980.
Why Kids Need Grandparents
An expert details the challenges faced by the children of parentless parents.
We are witnessing a revolution in the way generations connect in America. All of our assumptions about grandparents being around longer than ever before — because they're living longer, after all — are simply inaccurate.
The truth is that for the first time in U.S. history, millions of children are actually vulnerable to having less time with their grandparents than previous generations. Between 1970 and 2007, the average age for a woman to have her first child rose by 3.6 years. During the same period, life expectancy for a 65-year-old increased 3.4 years. But consider another trend: [photo cover max-width=150 align=right]According to the latest federal research, while women in the U.S. overall are having fewer babies, mothers between 40 and 54 are having more. The increasing age of motherhood underscores a dramatic shift that's been taking shape for decades. In 1972, about 180,000 children were born to mothers 35 and older. By 2008, that number had more than tripled, to 603,113.
Think about it: Scientists have long held that grandparents play an enormous role in children's cognitive, behavioral, and social development. But if grandparents have such measurable influence, where does that leave kids, especially those born to older parents, who may have few or no grandparents in their lives?
Grandparents Matter is an initiative of the Christian Coalition Alabama, 451 Saint Lukes Drive, Montgomery, Alabama
Christian Coalition Alabama is a 501(c)(4) Organization