If you’re lucky enough to know or have known your grandparents, you likely have fond memories of older versions of your parents who fit a certain stereotype. Maybe grandma perpetually stored questionable hard candy in a jar or a baked berries pies from scratch. Or maybe grandpa’s fishing tackle box and vest overflowing with hooks offered a fun place to explore. In fact, you probably remember grandpa as the one person with an antiquated yet impressive yet skill set who could fix just about anything.
In 2016 today’s grandparents have shattered that previous mold. For one they are becoming grandparents earlier in life. In fact, the average age at which people become first-time grandparents now is 48 and living up to almost 80 years old on average. This gives today’s grandparents even more of a chance to make an impact on their kids’ kids while helping groom their own children as parents. That’s why grandparents are so highly valued by families today and why spending time with them improves the lives of everyone around them.
Grandparents Understand Better
Like generations before them, grandkids today count on their grandparents for the kind of indulgent affection only grandparents can provide. They take the children out for ice cream, theme park visits and most of all, make time to listen. Because of this indulgent bond, grandkids of all ages can confide in their grandparents in ways they may not feel safe doing so with their own parents. This gives the grandparents a chance to show grandkids how to navigate priorities, and gives them an empathetic sounding board when coping with conflicting feelings and other emotionally heavy stuff that parents, as rule makers and Head of the Household, may not be able to provide.
Think about it: if you were 12 and had a serious crush on a classmate, would you feel more comfortable talking about it with someone who thinks you’re perfect or someone who is criticizing the state of your bedroom? You might not see it that way as the parent, but kids do. And grandparents provide a much-needed neutral ear at a time in their development when they need it in order for them to blossom into well-adjusted adults.
Parents Need Their Parents
Being a parent is hard work and nobody knows that better than the parents’ parents. Grandparents are full of practical knowledge about raising functioning grown-ups and you’re proof they can do it. In fact, about two thirds of grandparents think they can do a better job of raising kids as grandparents than they did as parents. They’ve been through nearly everything you’re going through and they want to help. Let them. Spend time observing how your parent interacts with your child, what games they teach your kid and how they handle the inevitable crying fits and boo-boos.
Don’t feel as though you’re bothering your parents by asking for advise. Seven in 10 grandparents feel that their bond with their own kids is stronger because they are grandparents. So when you question that rash on your infant’s face or have no idea how to motivate a defiant teenager to clean their room (and you’re as just tired of nagging), turn to your parents for some insightful advice.
Today’s Grandparents Keep Up Socially
Gone are the days of the inactive couple on the front stoop, quietly enjoying retirement and watching grandkids at play. Today’s grandparents are just as likely to be out there playing with the kids at the park or kicking around a soccer ball. More than 40 percent of them still exercise regularly. They’re socially connected too; three out of four grandparents are online and nearly half are engaged on social media. So today’s grandparents can relate to their own kids and grandkids on a much more personal level than previous generations. They tend to speak the same language and keep up with the same trends, which makes connecting with them easier than ever before.
The next time you talk to your grandparents or parents, take time to appreciate the active, insightful and experienced people they are. Then make it a priority to spend time with them. You and your kids will be grateful you did.