The Both Way Benefits of Grandparenting

When my sister was a little girl she had the good fortune of living next door to one of our grandmothers. In fact, the families lived in a duplex with a connecting door. Whenever Linda got in trouble with my parents she would go sit by Grandma’s door, knock on it, and cry in a plaintive voice, “Gamma, I come live with you?”

I too had the great benefit of an engaged grandparent. My great grandmother, Maggie O’Keefe, lived near us and I would stop by her house once a week, on my way home from piano lessons. She would stuff me with warm bread and regale me with stories of “the old country”. I learned much about her life, and about life in general, from these visits.

Now that I have entered the ranks of grandparents I am a voracious consumer of information about how to be the best. So when my eyes fell on an article about the scientifically backed benefits of grandparents I eagerly dug in.

We all have this generalized, gauzy impression that grandparents are (mostly) good for grandchildren. They feed them cookies, take them to the park, clap wildly at their performances. But I was unaware research supports the engaged grandparent glow. Bona fide scientific studies establish children learn a variety of important life lessons from grandparents.
• They learn aging is a natural part of life.
• They have higher rates of compassion.
• They learn about supporting others (children experience support and they also lend it).
• By listening, they learn family history.
• And as a bonus, studies show you’re less likely to be depressed, both in your teen years and in later life, if you have an engaged grandparent.

And get this: being an engaged grandparent makes you live longer! According to one study, “Grandparents who babysit their grandkids live longer than same age adults without child rearing responsibilities.” Regular babysitters have a 37% lower mortality rate than those who don’t sit. The writer of the article observed, “The fountain of youth is a sippy cup.”

The bottom line is, don’t just “be” a grandparent, engage as one. The benefits are better than a retirement plan.

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