10 reasons why the relationship between Grandparents and Grandchildren is so important (Part 2)

This blog post is a continuation of an article first published on June 7th 2016. You can find the first part here

 

1) Grandparents Provide a Companion and Confidant

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is truly special. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association it was found that many children view their grandparent as a confidant and that having a grandparent around to talk to when your parents are too busy helps encourage better behaviour and social skills in children.

kid in middle

 

2) Grandparents Provide Emotional Support For Family Issues

In particular, it can be difficult for children to find someone to confide in about delicate family matters or worries that they have about growing up. They may not feel comfortable talking to a parent – especially if a parent is the cause of their stress – and they may be worried about talking to their friends who aren’t always discreet.

 

In such cases, a grandparent provides the child with a safe and trusted role-model when the outside world often appears to be against them. Grandparents are usually one step removed from the everyday household trials and tribulations and offer a familiar face that kids can turn to in times of personal turmoil or family disruption. The American Psychological Association study mentioned above confirmed that children whose parents have divorced or separated especially benefit from having a grandparent available to offer comfort.

 

3) Grandparents Pass on Family History

Our past family history makes up a significant part of our own identity – which is why so many people still want to know and understand where they come from and who their ancestors were. According to an Emory University study, children who know stories about their ancestors show higher levels of emotional well-being and are better adjusted than children who haven’t been told about their past.

Just as Margaret Mead asserted in the 1960s, grandparents can help support their grandchildren to discover their ancestry, giving them a stronger sense of self. Studies have shown that having a grandparent who shares those family stories and traditions makes the grandchild much more likely to continue those traditions into adulthood with their own children.

 

4) Grandparents Provide Children With a Role Model For Ageing

Grandparents who live active, healthy lives also serve as role models for their grandchildren to aspire to physically. The image of the frail grandparent sitting in a rocker is being replaced with a much more active set of grandparents who take their grandchildren out on hikes and long shopping trips. According to the British Psychological Society, one of the learning interactions between grandparents and grandchildren is the grandparent serving as a role model for old age. Whether grandparents realise it or not, their own attitudes to ageing can influence what their grandkids can expect as they get older, as well as for how they will eventually care for their own parents during their golden years.

 

5) Grandparents Help Children to Better Understand Family Relationships

Having grandparents who are regularly involved can help children develop a deeper understanding of how family relationships work. Realising that their own parents were children once too, with a mum and dad who took care of them, can be an eye opening experience for a child and can give him or her a greater sense of how family relationships and dynamics grow and change overtime. The bond between a child’s grandparents and parent can also help him or her understand that conflicts can be worked through and overcome without having a lasting effect on a loving family relationship. According to The Legacy Project, grandparent interactions with the grandchild’s parent often define their own intergenerational relationships.

 

6) Grandparents Provide an Alternative Viewpoint to ‘Judgemental’ Parents

Children today are faced with many important decisions – where to go to college, which career to pursue, how to save for their first home – and grandparents have the wisdom and experience to offer an alternative way navigate these decisions when they need it. When children are feeling pressure from a parent who wants them to go in a different direction to what they want, a grandparent can provide a buffer to help smooth things over. They can also provide advice on important life issues that parents may not feel comfortable discussing. According to one AARP survey, more than half of grandparents give their grandchildren advice on such important subjects as illegal drug use, religion, and morals.

 

7) Grandparents Teach the Value of Family

One of the most important aspects of being a grandparent is imparting to grandchildren the importance of family. Through their actions of being involved and supportive, grandparents show their grandchildren that family extends beyond just immediate family. Children who enjoy a close relationship with their grandparents are shown what an important role extended family plays in the family dynamic and are more likely to carry those strong family views with them into adulthood. In a 2012 study conducted by MetLife, the majority of grandparents surveyed indicated that teaching their grandchildren about personal and family values was extremely important to them and 67% reported that teaching grandchildren the importance of preserving family ties as being their highest priority in that area.

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8) Grandparents Teach Children New Skills

Ask an adult about spending time with their grandparents during childhood and you are likely to hear fond memories of baking with Grandma or working in the garden with Grandpa. Grandparents can teach their grandchildren skills that they may not have learned elsewhere. Many parents complain they are too busy with work and other commitments to give their children the time they deserve (Pew reports that over a quarter of Moms and almost half of all Dads feel conflicted), but most grandparents say they would relish the opportunity to introduce their grandchildren to some of the skills and passions that they have acquired during their life – which can translate into good life skills for them too, later in life. In the MetLife study, it was found that 33% of the grandparents surveyed cooked or baked with their grandchildren, 28% made crafts with them, 30% actively read with them and took them to the library, and 7% engaged with their grandchildren in volunteering within the community.

 

9) Grandparents Teach Kids Not to Sweat the Small Stuff

By a virtue of their age, most Grandparents have been around the block a few times and they are at a point in their lives where they can step back and realise that fretting over every little obstacle or missed opportunity doesn’t do anybody any good. When their grandchild is facing a tough loss or is devastated by not getting a scholarship or school place he or she wanted, grandparents can let them know that everything will work out in the end.

 

Grandparents can reassure their grandchildren that there is nothing that they won’t bounce back from – and they have the real life stories to prove it. In a 2000 study of Iowa families it was found that children who reported a close relationship with a grandparent perceived themselves to be more competent academically, personally, and socially and that they seemed more self-confident and mature than those who did not report a close relationship with a grandparent.

10) Kids with Grandparents who take an active role lead happier lives

And finally, a study carried out by Oxford University, in collaboration with the Institute of Education, London concluded that children in families where the grandparents were active, were far more likely to lead happier lives overall. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the grandparents’ involvement is the sole contributory factor but there was a definite correlation. Similar research amongst Bangladeshi and Anglo-speaking families in East London also identified that grandparents play a particular role in their children’s learning that can contribute to higher achievement at school – and which needs to be recognised and built on by schools.

 

A final thought

Many grandparents will tell you that being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys that you’ll experience in life. And, as we’ve seen above, it’s more important than ever that grandparents stay in touch with their grandchildren and play an active role in their lives. Even those grandparents and grandchildren who are separated by distance can still benefit from a loving and caring long-distance relationship.

 

With today’s technology there are so many different ways for grandparents to stay connected and involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Grandparents are increasingly using video chat, email and social networks, as well as phone-calls, to bridge the time when they are apart and those conversations provide useful context for when they do get to see the children face-to-face during holidays and vacations. And the Gingersnap Story-Apps are part of that armoury, providing a mechanism for grandparents stay involved with their digitally-savvy kids no matter how far away they live.

 

Sharing stories has always been part of the joy that grandparents bring to the family, and our interactive adventures are designed to enable that tradition to continue even with these remote relationships. In our own field tests, the vast majority of grandparents said they found the Story Apps gave them something extra to talk about when the grandchildren came to stay and were a useful stimulus for a phone call or a skype chat that was going nowhere. And on top of that the grandparents reported that they also felt better as a result of the exchange – more connected, less isolated and rejuvenated! What’s not to like about that?

 

This blog was written and produced by the members of the Gingersnap team with support from freelance researchers.
To find out more about Gingersnap or our Story-app collection please check out our homepage at www.gingersnap.tv

 

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to discuss it with us, or have read or contributed to research not mentioned here then please do get in touch at feedback@gingersnap.tv

10 reasons why the relationship between Grandparents and Grandchildren is so important (Part 1)

First a little bit of context: 

Here at Gingersnap Studios, we’re on a mission to put our app technology to good use, so we can help families stay better connected, even when they’re apart. And we’re always on the look out for research or blog posts that explain how family dynamics are changing in the modern age or that help remind us of why those family ties are still relevant.

 

Most of the people who we’ve invited to our app testing sessions over the last few months have told us that they instinctively believe that “there is a special bond between kids and their grandparents that still needs to be nurtured”.

 

Some say it’s as strong as ever, but others worry that family separation, parental break-ups and even the increased pressure on kids’ home-time, mean the older generations are in danger of losing touch and falling out of favour with their grandkids.

 

So we’ve been doing a bit of old-fashioned desk research to remind ourselves why the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is so important… and we wanted to share it with you.

 

(This blog comes in two parts, so if you’re a list fanatic and want to skip the history bit then look for the link at the bottom of the page).

 

50 years in the writing

Back in the late 1960s, the prominent American cultural Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, observed that grandparents and grandchildren were important allies, often united against the parents. She argued that grandparents needed grandchildren “to keep the changing world alive for them” and that, through the stories the grandparents told, children not only learned about the world as it had been for that generation but also about what their parents’ childhood had been like.

And so it was , she argued, that grandparents linked the past to the present, whilst children linked the present to the future.

 

“Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”
Margaret Mead

 

Mead was keen to emphasise that the value of these intergenerational bonds represented a model for mutual learning across society, and in 1969, when she became a grandmother herself, she succinctly remarked in her monthly column for the Redbook magazine, “Curious! Through no immediate act of my own, my status was altered irreversibly and for all time.”

 

A product of the time?

Back in the 1960s when Mead first started to write about the ‘grandparent effect’, the ‘generation gap’ between kids and their elders was a hot topic for discussion, and what Mead had to say about adolescents in particular, garnered lots of media attention. Cosmopolitan Magazine did a profile on her and noted that “her latest vogue is as a folk heroine today’s youth”.

 

Mead caught the tabloids off guard because, far from criticising the teenage rebellion that was sweeping across the United States and Europe, she sided with the youngsters and sympathised with their angst. “These children were born into a whole world. They’re involved in everything at once – the bomb, space exploration, computers, pollution. Things happen every place and every place – through television – is theirs. We know this world as a second language. They know it as a mother tongue”.

 

dreamstime_s_33415510Fifty years on and the digital revolution is couched in similar terms. At the turn of the millennium Mark Prensky coined the term ‘digital native‘ for children who had never known a world before the internet. (It was later arbitrarily applied to children born after 1980). Whilst their grandparents’ generation have been relegated to the status of “digital immigrants“.

 

Yet, ironically, despite the advances in behavioural sciences, still very little has been written about what needs to be done to break down this digital divide.

 

Social anthropologists no longer work up their hypotheses based on personal observation alone, and the rapid development of neuro-sciences should gives us a much better understanding of which emotional drivers are triggering the different parts of the brain when the generations interact. But detailed explanations are still few and far between.

 

So what can we say with any certainty?

Those bloggers and social commentators that do cover the subject, seem unanimous that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is more important than ever. And this does seem to be borne out by the occasional academic report that reinforces these everyday observations.

 

There’s also clear evidence corroborating Margaret Mead’s assertion that a strong relationship and bond from a young age can be mutually beneficial for both grandparents and grandchildren (as you’ll discover below).

 

And although we couldn’t find any major studies into causality, there seems to be a consensus amongst social scientists that grandparents still have a strong influence on their grandchildren’s lives and continue to play an important role in their childhood, helping to shape their perception of family and providing valuable lessons that will follow them into adulthood.

 

This is all very useful information for those of us that work in the ‘inter-generational space’, but we still definitely need more research into the subject. In particular, as families continue to disperse (for work or other reasons), the more we need to understand how these traditional bonds can be supported when relatives are apart. For example, can a virtual exchange between a child and grandparent have the same effect as a face-to-face interaction and help lessen the effect of geographical separation?

 

WP-image4_flagThese are some of the questions that preoccupy us here at Gingersnap. Our personalised story-app collection was developed after months of in-home trials, specifically with the ambition of helping grandparents (and other relatives) feel more connected with what their digitally-savvy kids might be up to the other side of the world. (Forgive the blatant plug but if you’re interested you can find our latest app collection for iPad here). But there are still so many unanswered questions.

 

In our daily work, we obsess about how best to “accentuate the positive” aspects of personalisation, gift-giving and reciprocity between the generations, so that grandparents feel they want to get involved with technology rather than see it as admission that they need help. (From our experiences of the ‘senior-tech’ solutions industry, far too many tech companies dwell unnecessarily on the unpleasant aspects of old age – which can only have a negative effect). But again we’re probably only scratching the surface.

 

And when each new report or study comes out we’re amongst the first to pull it apart and try to understand what it means. So here are our ten top reasons why we should encourage grandparents to take an active role in their young grandchildren’s life.

 

Continue to Part 2 of this blog.