A baby's hand gripping an adult finger,

5 Ways To Nurture Your Child’s Bond With Their Grandparents

The relationship between grandparents and grandchild is a special kind of bond; as Alex Hayley said, “grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children”.

Through my work with GenWise Health as a General Practitioner in aged care, I see people at the end of their lives, when they’re grandparents, often great grandparents. My patients’ faces light up when their grandchildren and great grandchildren come to visit. You can see that other residents of the facilities where I work are green with envy at the visit of a bright young face, an innocent little person, thrilled that their special older person is so interested and happy to engage in innocuous banter about the world they share.

Cross generational relationships are mutually beneficial (and there is evidence that this benefit extends well into adulthood).  My happiest, and often physically and mentally healthiest, patients are often those who have strong familial bonds, or strong bonds with people from other generations.

Those readers lucky enough to still have grandparents in their lives as adults, will appreciate the fun, joy and sense of security that the relationship has brought to both parties (and acknowledge that tension and strain also occurs at times;  no long term relationship is perfect!).

What can parents do to foster the bond between children and their grandparents?

  • Special relationships don’t have to involve frequent physical contact– Facetime, Skype and other technologies allow for the development of close relationships despite geographical distance. Whether it’s in person or not, try to allow children time alone with their grandparents.  Let them play or chat away without you interfering.
  • From time to time, turn a blind eye to what my grandmother calls “grandparents’ prerogatives” (the odd treat in the way of food or gift that you would not usually give your child at home).
  • Make sure your children are safe – the world has changed since our parents were parents.  If they are looking after your child when you’re not there, make sure they’re aware of the safe sleeping guidelines for babies, have properly fitted, age appropriate child restraints in their cars, are conscious of choking hazards, have well fenced properties and so forth.  And on that note, if you have concerns about your parent/s capacity to safely care for a child (or themselves), try to raise this gently with them, or their GP (it’s useful to book an appointment so there’s plenty of time to discuss your concerns), so that worries can be addressed promptly.
  • Be aware that not all parents will want to be active grandparents. Most parents have worked hard for a long time. Some now want to enjoy the fruits of their labours without the pitter patter of little feet in the background. That’s ok too!   If your parents fall into this category, or for other reasons, genetic grandparents are not on the scene, there are other ways your children can form equally special relationships. A good place to start is your local aged care facilities; many aged care facilities run playgroups and other cross generational activities; your child might be able to make a special friend there.
  • And last of all, to keep your parents “grand parenting” for as long as possible encourage them to make great lifestyle choices –  exercise their bodies and brains, get adequate sleep, eat well, minimize alcohol intake and quit (or ideally never start!), smoking. And try to do the same yourself so that you too can be an amazing grandparent when the time comes!

Dr Adelaide Boylan is a mother of two, lecturer at The University of Adelaide, and GP registrar. As a general practitioner, Adelaide works in the specialisation of aged care for GenWise Health, an organisation that champions work life balance and GP flexibility. She was recently awarded the 2017 Royal Australian College GP registrar of the Year.

Guest Contributor