“If I knew grandchildren were so great, I would have had them first!” – Lois Wyse
I am at the stage of my life where I am very much looking forward to being a grandparent. For those of you who may know me – this is not an announcement! While I am excited about becoming a grandparent, I am not putting any pressure on my two children to rush into becoming parents (I want to, but I am not).
The demise of the large family unit, where grandparents, parents and children lived together, and the rise of the nuclear family, has meant the direct contact many grandparents have had with their grandchildren has been greatly reduced. However, it seems to me the role grandparents can play in child rearing has never been more important.
Our society now recognises a wide range of living arrangements as ‘family’. The increase in the divorce rates, alternative partner arrangements, and single parent families are some of the factors which have changed over the years. All of these have an effect on the children involved.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying they are all negative. Not at all. I am just observing that they have an impact on children.
Grandparents often provide a consistency and certainty for children that busy parents, especially in the midst of changing family circumstances, find more difficult to give.
More often than not, if children have a question they want to ask, or an issue they need advice for, they are more likely to engage with a significant other in their lives than they are with their parents. In other words, when children feel uncomfortable speaking with their parents about something they will look for someone else they trust. This might be a close friend of the family, an aunt or uncle, or, where they can, a grandparent.
When grandparents engage in the learning experiences of their grandchildren, learning outcomes improve. Engagement doesn’t mean helping with reading at the school, or in the tuckshop (although these are great things to do). Engagement means taking an active interest in what is happening in a child’s learning journey.
Grandparents can engage by asking questions about assignments and projects, asking children to teach them something they have learnt at school, and by making it obvious to the child their education matters to them.
Grandparents are very important in the life of a child. I am grateful for all the grandparents who get alongside their grandchildren and encourage them. Grandparents – keep it up!
Australia’s Annual Grandparents Day is Sunday, 25 October.