The Modern Role of Grandparents

How is the role of grandparents changing? With people living longer, the role of grandparents is extending deeper into the life of their children and grandchildren.

My grandparents were nearly non-existent during much of my formative years. By the time that I became an adult, they had either passed away or reached a state of physical decline that precluded much involvement in my life. However, for many centuries this was not the case. Grandparents were a part of a child’s life by virtue of the strength of the extended family. By my childhood, the family unit had shrunk to the people who were in your immediate family. Grandparents were add ons to this group during holidays.

With the rise of dual income families during the past thirty or so years, grandparents have come back into the picture as a vital part of the extended family unit. The need for additional child care after school and for night and weekend work schedules has made a new need for grandparents.

Most of the time, grandparents make the safest, cheapest, and most convenient source for child care. Because many grandparents want to spend more time with the offspring of their offspring, this makes for an excellent symbiosis. The grandparents get to care for someone they love, and grandchildren get the benefit of exposure to family members who can link them to the more distance past of their family.

Grandparents tend to have more disposable income. This means that they can afford to help with transporting the grandkids to practices and meetings. It also means that they will be able to keep snacks and sweets on hand to keep the little ones smiling and happy.

Additionally, grandparents now are in better condition later in life than ever before. Unlike my grandparents who really only wanted me to stay out of their hair or watch TV, grandparents today feel like doing things with grandchildren.

Between the ages of 50 and 80, grandparents often have eluded the aches, pains, and stiffness that come with age. They feel up to changing a diaper or chasing a toddler. Even going outside and tossing a ball for them to hit or catch is a simple activity for today’s grandparents. They may not be up to hours and hours of exertion, but 30 to 45 minutes of light exercise is certainly within their capabilities.

So, grandparents are slowly reverting back to their old role of secondary parents for their grandchildren. With this rediscovered role, comes the ability to also continue to influence their own children deep into their adult years. Being around for the little ones gives grandparents a chance to interact with their own children that has been lost for several generations.

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  1. Alas, many parents do not want their parents involved.
    They seem to feel a peculair kind of ‘jealousy’ as if
    the Grans will turn the kids against them.

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