If you’re a grandparent, you’re one of 70 million remarkable people just like you in the United States. You may play a vital role in your adult grandchildren’s lives, and as a new study shows, they can help improve your life, too. The research celebrates the importance of the extended family and of remaining functionally independent as we age, even as we remain “emotionally close” to those we love. It’s about strong grandparent – adult grandchild relationships.
Of course you already know that grandkids make you smile, laugh and yes, maybe sometimes, cry—but the overwhelming effect they have is likely a positive one that makes you brag about how wonderful they are. The new research out of Boston College‘s Department of Sociology and the Institute on Aging finds that “grandparents and grandchildren have real, measurable effects on each other’s psychological well-being long into grandchildren’s adulthood.”
Strong grandparent – adult grandchild relationships
“The average grandparent was born in 1917 and the average grandchild in 1963, making them 77 years old and 31 years old, respectively, at the midpoint of the study in 1994,” the researchers said.
Bottom line: The more emotional support both parties gave each other, the better their psychological health. The scientists differentiated between emotional support and “tangible support,” which they defined as “rides to the store and money, to assistance with household chores and advice.” Basically, it’s all the other ways you help your grandkids besides just being there for them on an emotional level.
Need to be needed
The report says grandparents benefited psychologically when giving tangible support or receiving it but that grandchildren didn’t—which I found perplexing at first. Now I understand that grandparents who once played a supportive role and then later on—due to ill health or other reasons—can’t do that, got depressed. Getting help, but not being able to give it, made the grandparents sad, for they don’t want to be dependent on grandkids. Grandparents who both gave and received tangible support were less depressed over the long-term.
Findings underscore what we all know: That everyone benefits “from feeling needed, worthwhile, and independent,” the researchers say.
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