What used to be the “golden years” of life for seniors is now turning into any opportunity to spend even more time with their youngest family members. Nowadays, a growing number of grandparents are called on to provide child care for their grandkids, many of whom are growing up in two-income households. Others are helping to raise grandkids while providing financial assistance for adult children who may not be able to live on their own.
This trend has been corroborated in a few recent studies. Information from the Pew Research Center showed 7.7 million children in the United States were living in the same household as one of their grandparents in 2011. A University of Chicago analysis of a decade of data based on interviews with 13,614 grandparents, ages 50 and older, found that 61 percent of grandparents provided at least 50 hours of care for their grandchildren during any given year between 1998 and 2008. And an April 2012 study for the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the nonprofit Generations United, an intergenerational policy group, found that 74 percent of respondents provided weekly child care or babysitting service for grandkids.
Grandparents often cite helping their own children financially as well as staying in touch with grandchildren as motivating factors behind providing care. According to Generations United, staying in touch with grandkids can give seniors a feeling of self-worth and improve their overall health.
When spending so much time together, grandparents may develop special relationships with their grandchildren, who may benefit from the knowledge and wisdom offered by their elders. The following are some lessons grandparents can share with youngsters.
* Empathy: By sharing stories of how things were when they were younger, when opportunities may have been more scarce, grandparents can help teach grandchildren empathy. Grandchildren may learn to be grateful for the things they have and the people around them, rather than taking what they have for granted.
* Family history: Grandparents can tell grandchildren about family members, including youngsters’ own parents, and shed light on the generations that came before them. Looking through photos or watching old movies can provide the avenue by which to start conversations about family history and give children opportunities to ask questions.
* Interests: Children may be excited about learning new skills or hobbies taught to them by their grandparents. Anything from gardening to woodworking can be shared.
* Respect: Children who grow up respecting their grandparents may have an increased tendency to respect authority figures outside their homes, which may help kids grow up to be more courteous and kind.
Grandchildren also offer benefits to their grandparents. Companionship, new experiences and conversation can help keep grandparents’ minds sharp and bodies active well into their golden years.