Granny. MeMaw. Grandfather. PawPaw. No matter the affectionate nickname used, it’s true that grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. From supporting the growth and development of young grandchildren to serving as a sounding board for adolescents, grandparents can make a lifelong impact on future generations. Grandparents are, and have always been, the ultimate influencers.
THE SCIENCE OF GRANDPARENTING
As life expectancy increases, more and more research on the impact of grandparents and multigenerational families is being conducted by those interested in family dynamics.
University of Oxford Professor Ann Buchanan discovered “that a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children. A study of more than 1,500 children showed that those with a high level of grandparental involvement had fewer emotional and behavioral problems.”
These findings are echoed by developmental psychologist Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., parenting program director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Dr. Abdullah cites several studies in her writing that confirm the strong influence of grandparents on the lives of their grandchildren, including research from Xiaowei Li and her colleagues:
“Mothers who had strong co-parenting relationships with grandparents (mostly grandmothers) tended to feel more effective in their role as a parent, and, in turn, their children tended to be more socially competent six months later.”
“Parent-grandparent co-parenting also seems to influence other aspects of children’s development. In a 2020 study, Li and her colleagues explored its effects on preschoolers’ effortful control—their ability to regulate how they respond to a situation, plan, and notice novelty or mistakes, which plays a role in children’s social-emotional well-being.”
The Hartford writer Kathy Simpson shares several key roles grandparents play, including family historian, nurturer, mentor and role model, playmate and caregiver, spiritual guide, and teacher.
AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Schools can make the most of this special grandparent-grandchild relationship. Mount Paran Christian School involves grandparents in a myriad of ways.
MPCS hosts annual Grandparents’ Days for preschool and elementary-aged children. Over the course of two days, grandparents are invited to campus to visit their grandchild’s school, spend time playing games, and enjoying lunch and other activities together. Tina Baker, MPCS assistant head of lower school, shares, “On Grandparents Day, you could visibly see the love and delight in grandparents' eyes as they played games with their grandchildren, which reminded me of our heavenly Father’s love looking at generations of His children.”
With an active community and a robust calendar of events, there is always an opportunity for grandparents to be present on campus, from arts productions to athletics games. Grandparents are also welcome to volunteer or serve as guest speakers, when appropriate.
MPCS Donor Relations and Stewardship Manager Paula Deiters is not only the parent of an MPCS alumna, but she is now also an MPCS grandparent. She shares, “We are experiencing a ‘full circle’ moment in our lives. Our child attended MPCS and grew spiritually and academically and has carried these gifts to adulthood. Having our grandchild here is a double blessing. She is in a Godly, loving environment where she has already gained self confidence and spiritual growth. We treasure every moment that we get to spend with her on campus.”
Grandparents can advocate for their grandchildren’s education. Simple actions make a big difference, such as cuddling up to read a book with a young grandchild or helping tweens with homework or a history project. At independent schools, grandparents can also choose to assist with tuition or make gifts to the school’s annual fund in honor of their grandchild.
4 TIPS FOR GRANDPARENTING
Whether grandparents live around the corner or across the country, there are ways they can continue to make an impact in their grandchildren’s lives.
1. Stay in touch. Whether visits are frequent and in person or regular FaceTime calls, making time for meaningful connections is critical. Children love receiving mail, so send a card or share a letter. When together, activities can include reading and playing games or cooking a favorite family recipe. Consider an annual multigenerational family trip for building memories.
2. Listen without judgment. Children, especially as they move into their teen years, want to feel known and loved. Grandparents who are emotionally available can be a trusted adult for their grandchildren, who may feel more comfortable sharing personal stories with grandparents instead of with their parents.
In his book The Gift of Grandparenting Eric Wiggen shares, ”Young people who visit their grandparents, with few exceptions, do so because they want—often very badly—the companionship of their elders. The same grandmother who beat me at checkers when I was nine became a friend in whom I could confide when I was 19. She wrote me letters, long and full of family news. When I came home from college, we talked. And you know what? Grandma wanted to listen to me! I soon found that she was fascinated with what I had to say, and she had more time to listen to me than my parents. For your teen or single young-adult grandchildren, perhaps the most important ‘entertainment’ you can give them is to listen when they talk.”
3. Be a resource. Share your wisdom with your children and grandchildren, but try to avoid contradicting your own child’s parenting preferences. Instead, be a source of advice when asked.
4. Pray. This is the most important thing grandparents can do for their families and will have an eternal impact. Instill God’s word when the opportunity arises.
Mrs. Deiters says, “We praise God and thank MPCS for nurturing our grandchild and believe that the best is yet to come!”
On her experience of becoming a grandmother, MPCS Associate Head of School and Head of Upper School Tawanna Rusk shares, “What a glorious day it was when God brought me into a new stage of life as a grandparent! Everyone talks about this role and how precious it is, and it is true. But, I have reflected on what makes this so unique. For me, in the parenting years, we feel such a responsibility to get it right and do everything perfectly. We worry and stress over our parenting missteps. As you age and mature, God is faithful to show us, perfection doesn't exist on this side of heaven. Grandparents get to take all the lessons we have learned the hard way and to provide unconditional love, patience for mistakes, encouragement for the hard times, and giddy excitement for every new milestone reached, all while being totally confident that God has our children and our grandchildren in the palm of his hand. At times, a grandparent’s voice is the earthly loving whisper of all God’s Truth to his beloved children.”
Amber Irizarry is the communications content manager for Mount Paran Christian School. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of North Georgia and a master of arts degree in communication from Georgia State University.
Want to learn more about the Mount Paran Christian School experience for your child or grandchild? Click here to learn more.