The grand scheme of things
There's a special bond between children and the grandparents who play a hugely important role in little ones' lives, writes Dearbhala Cox Giffin
The relationship between grandchildren and grandparents is one based on unconditional love, appreciation, fun and pure joy. Becoming a grandparent is probably one of the most special moments of a person's life and is the start of mutually beneficial relationship, an unbreakable bond full of love and heart-warming interactions.
Children benefit from having consistent, caring adults in their lives and grandparents also benefit from having young children in their lives. They have a clearly defined role and a sense of belonging and purpose in their later years, boosting their self-esteem, keeping them happy and healthy as it adds a sparkle to their day. It's an important relationship bringing a different perspective of wisdom, a sense of identity and extended family relationships.
Grandparents play a major role in a grandchild's life as a friend, story teller, role model, confidante... This is a different kind of love as grandparents often establish a relationship where they can be a friend to their grandchild, whereas parents are often caught up in the urgent business of day-to-day life, establishing boundaries and routines, particularly when their children are little.
Grandparents usually have a lot more time to just relax and be with their grandchildren, building their relationship, strengthening the bonds of affection and establishing a special closeness so that many young children include granny and grandad in their list of friends.
It's also a boon when working parents can rely on grandparents for babysitting support. They not only have peace of mind knowing their children are in reliable and capable hands, their children also love being doted on by their grandparents, especially since granny and grandad often have sweets, chocolates or treats.
Grandparents are storytellers. They can tell exotic, interesting stories of their own childhood that are often full of exciting details for younger children. They can convey lessons to their grandchildren not only by sharing stories from their past, but also by sharing their general experience, life knowledge and wisdom. A child can obtain a sense of where they, themselves, have come from - a picture of where their own roots lie. There is a fascination in learning about their grandparents' lives as they have lived a life very different to their grandchildren, and have usually seen many changes over the years.
Talking to grandparents about their lives, and even just picking up little snippets of information can give a child insight into the past and the history of their own family tree as they are learning about the past and how it shaped the future and their own lives.
Grandparents are important sources of life lessons. They aren't usually seen as the closest authority in their grandchildren's lives and can often tell a child something (maybe the exact same thing a parent would say) but it will be received, simply because it's not the parent saying it.
They can also say things that parents can't, which can be very useful when managing difficult conversations. Their patience and calm demeanour often arises from the experience and wisdom contrived from having 'done it and seen it all before'. New parents are often anxious about obstacles that arise during the course of child-rearing and grandparents often find it much easier to remain calm and realistic. This can have a positive effect on both their grandchildren and their own children (the new parents) who can benefit from the support and experience.
Grandparents can give undivided attention. Grandparents are very nurturing and loving - just like parents, but often without the episodes of frazzled stress that parenting typically brings. Thus, they often portray a sense of calm and endless patience which is beneficial to a child. Because they hand the grandchildren back over at the end of a visit, adoring grandparents are often quite time indulgent - they can afford to be, particularly if they are retired and can attend to their chores at another time.
This unrushed, high quality, one-on-one time can be very rewarding, for both the grandchild and the grandparent and builds a foundation for a relationship that will last years.
Dearbhala Cox Giffin is the Director of Childcare at Giraffe Childcare, giraffe.ie