Bringing Grandparents and Grandchildren Closer Together
So, we live in a society where grandparents and grandchildren hardly mix, do we? Apparently not. According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, it seems that the number of people living in multi-generational households in Canada has reached 1.3 million. That’s 4.5% of Canada’s entire population.
One of the most likely causes for this coming-together of generations might be down to life expectancy, as current national figures are at a record high with women expected to live to 87 and men to 84. Even so, it’s clear that there are still many grandparents who don’t live with their grandchildren and who perhaps don’t get as many opportunities to spend time with them on a regular basis.
Indeed, many families make the decision to move loved ones into assisted living accommodation for fear of their personal safety, wanting to keep aging relatives as snug and safe as possible. The good news is that multigenerational relationships afford many benefits, even when grandparents and grandchildren don’t have the pleasure of living together day in, day out.
Benefits of multigenerational relationships
Both young grandchildren and teenagers gain wisdom and a sense of care for the elderly when they spend more time with their grandparents. They experience firsthand the difficulties that arise from getting older, become more aware of health and safety issues and thus develop a new set of essential life skills.
Grandchildren who interact with their grandparents on a regular basis also realize that they are blessed with more than one or two support networks to turn to whenever they need help or advice. Grandparents, with their many years of experience, can also help take the pressure off mom and dad by helping their grandchildren to understand and accept why their parents make decisions that seem so unfair to them.
At the same time, grandparents who spend time with their grandchildren are given a renewed purpose in life. They become useful and interesting again, entertaining children with stories and activities. This sense of purpose breathes new life and energy into old bones, making them feel young again. Cultural and familial traditions are never lost when the grandparents are around to share them with the youngest members of the family.
Ways of encouraging interaction
Communication is essential in any family. Even if the grandparents live in separate accommodation, it’s a good idea to include them in any family meetings. Their thoughts, feelings and expressions can provide an entirely new perspective on a child’s understanding of the world.
Organize days when the grandparents come to the house for lunch or dinner. Even when the most senior members of the family live in assisted living accommodation, days out can be easily arranged ahead of time with the accommodation staff. Learning about grandpa or grandma’s special recipe or clever kitchen trick can be truly inspirational for young people and something that they carry with them through life, even when their grandparents are no longer around.
Other routines can also be established. A regular family walk, a trip to the cinema or game night are just three ideas that can form part of the weekly or monthly schedule and encourage both generations to spend time together and reap the benefits of the same.
When multi generations all live under the same roof, there might be a few hiccups along the way that need to be ironed out. With so many people living in the same house, it’s easy to imagine how and why tensions build and arguments arise. While some grandparents might love the social interaction with their grandchildren, they may also begrudge being relied on as live-in childminders if it happens too often.
Similarly, mom and dad might find over-interested grandparents difficult to deal with, which is why it’s important to anticipate possible problem areas and establish rules to keep these frictions at bay. What’s certain is that the advantages of a multigenerational relationship certainly outweigh the negatives, so if we have the opportunity to encourage grandparents and grandchildren to interact on a daily basis, we should go for it.