Dear Dr. Meg,
As a grandmother, is it beneficial to stay involved with your grandchildren? I love them and we love to be together, but is there an age where they will break away? Also, have you written much about grandparents’ roles?
Dear Loving Grandmother,
Yes, it is very important for children to have the influence of good grandparents for many reasons. First, grandparents can give children what many of their parents can’t give: time. Young parents are often so busy trying to keep up with the demands of life that they don’t have an opportunity to give their children quiet, unrushed attention. That’s where grandparents can come in. We can be with grandchildren one on one and do things in an unhurried way. Children crave attention; yet with the busyness of most parents’ lives, they simply don’t get enough.
Second, children benefit from the influence of multiple generations. Your perspective as a grandmother is very different from your grown children’s when it comes to time, issues, behaviors, politics, religion – you name it. Children benefit from hearing different perspectives. This is not to condone open disagreement with a child’s parents; rather it is to encourage grandparents to offer support on behalf of parents from a different perspective.
One of the most important gifts that grandparents can give their grandchildren is unconditional love. Since we expect less from grandchildren than their parents do, we are in a great position to simply offer love. We don’t need to make sure they go to soccer or school on time, get good grades, etc., because that’s a parent’s job (unless you are the primary caregiver). The fact that we require little from them puts us in a wonderful position of experiencing less conflict with them.
Finally, children perceive that grandparents aren’t required to love their grandchildren. They believe that their parents must love them but when it comes to grandparents, they see our love as negotiable. So, when we express love to them, they feel very special because we have “chosen” to love them.
You asked if there is a time when a grandchild breaks away from a grandparent. My answer to that question is no; not if the grandparent has a healthy relationship with his or her grandchild. In the end, the grandparent is largely in charge of that.