My 3-year-old daughter was recovering from her first stomach virus and my mom watched her so I could return to the office. When I got home, I found them on the floor, each holding a pastel-colored pony. My daughter was telling my mother to make her pony “frow up” in the dollhouse bathroom, so my mom trotted her pony over and made realistic “blecccch” sounds. I still laugh when I think about it. It’s moments like this that capture the amazing bond between children and their grandparents.
How Children Benefit from Grandparents (and Vice Versa!)
Grandparents have such a special place in our children’s lives for many reasons:
- Grandparents offer unconditional love, endless stories, and a huge amount of patience to answer all those “why?” questions.
- Time with grandparents builds family connections across the generations, helping children develop a sense of family history and culture. (I still remember my Armenian grandmother teaching me how to gently roll a grape leaf filled with deliciously-scented meat.)
The quality time children spend with their grandparents is certainly not one-sided –
grandparents benefit from it, too! Here’s what ZERO TO THREE heard recently from grandparent caregivers:
- Hope for their grandchildren’s future brings them joy. One of the grandparents we spoke with said it best: “My hope for my grandson is that he is…a trailblazer, whatever that means to him.”
- They remember how stressful things were when they were parents—when they were raising you—and they feel more confident and patient with their grandchildren than they did with children of their own.
- Grandchildren bring them so much happiness. In fact, my mother wants you all to know she has the two most wonderful grandchildren in the world.
Sharing the Care: Grandparents as Caregivers
Many parents feel very fortunate to have their child cared for by a grandparent during the day, whether it’s occasionally lending a hand when a child gets sick or providing full-time child care. It’s comforting to know the child is with a close family member – someone the child knows (and parents trust!) – and it brings joy to the grandparent as well.
That’s why recent data shows that grandparents provide child care for nearly one in four preschool children. But what did grandparents tell ZERO TO THREE was the one tricky thing to navigate about this child care scenario?
They told us that discussing differences in expectations and parenting methods with their children isn’t easy. In my own house, my parents and I disagreed over screen time (we wanted our daughter to have none) and pacifier use at naptime (we wanted her to fall asleep without it). Ultimately, we compromised a bit so my dad could get his daily news fix and my mom could get a break while my daughter napped.
Resources for Families with Grandparent Caregivers
- While many ways we care for young children remain the same, a lot has changed over the years, too. ZERO TO THREE has developed a series of resources just for grandparents to help them learn more about recent findings in the areas of discipline, nutrition, sleep and play.
- This tool provides a helpful guide for families during discussions about normal caregiving challenges that may arise.
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