Having parents around while raising children of your own is a gift. The support and unconditional love of a grandparent helps nurture the grandchild and provides an invaluable support system for the parents. Grandparents benefit too, with studies showing increased cognitive ability and more. We’ve made a list of helpful tips for making the most of this special multi-generational relationship.
Recent reports paint a clear picture: People should not take for granted the special relationship between a grandchild and grandparent. And while you’d think the grandkids are the primary winners — given all those cuddles, shared life lessons and probably even cookies — it turns out the grandparents themselves experience actual health benefits from spending time with their grandchildren.
So let’s take a look at some of the research illustrating these health benefits. Studies show time spent between grandparents and grandchildren are good for:
Keeping the Brain Healthy With Age
A study from the Women’s Health Aging Project found that post-menopausal grandmothers who look after their grandchildren at least once a week have the greatest cognitive ability. This could contribute to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders.
What you can do: Brain-boosting activities, including card games and puzzles, power up the brain and encourage creativity. Great activities for older and younger generations to enjoy together include puzzles, books, playing cards and games.
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Encouraging Fitness as a Family Tradition
According to the AARP, grandparents often say their grandchildren are their main motivation to stay active and fit. Even more, staying active is beneficial for children in helping them reduce the time they are sedentary and as a preventative measure against childhood obesity.
What you can do: Ideas for staying active with grandchildren include family hikes, whether it be an urban hike around the neighborhood or a nature trail at a local park; Tai Chi, since it is gentle enough for all generations; simple yoga poses, and “exergaming,” in which computer games like bowling, baseball and tennis can improve balance and coordination among older adults.
Increased Overall Well-Being for Both Generations
A 2014 Boston College study found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and their adult grandchildren helped reduce depression for both generations.
A kiss, hug or hand holding between grandparents and grandchildren on its own gives a sense of calmness, security and increases your love hormone, called oxytocin – all factors that play into mental health. But emotional closeness means ample time together, so welcome those dedicated blocks of time.
What you can do: To realize the greatest advantages of these relationships, grandparents and grandchildren should have dedicated blocks of time together. So perhaps pick a day and make it a routine, like Taco Tuesday with the grandparents or Friday after school (and before the chaos of the weekend ensues).
Overall, the research reveals: Grandparents and grandchildren both benefit from these close relationships. Do you feel you’re better off from time spent with your own grandparents? Or perhaps you’re a grandparent who loves time with the littles in your life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!