All models of relationship with grandparents
The grandparents they are a fundamental part of family functioning. However, the relationship with them can be neglected buried in the daily routine. Before giving some clues to understand and enjoy the relationship with grandparents, we invite you to reflect on how we currently live.
Do your children see their grandparents as a reference figure and a role model? In the case that grandparents live far away, do you prioritize trips to go and see them ahead of other leisure activities? Do you value the help they offer in difficult times? Are grandparents with their grandchildren whenever they want or only when they are needed as caregivers? Do you consider that the stability of the relationship with them favors their emotional well-being?
The grandparents and all the models of relationship with them
If you answered yes to most of the questions, your children probably have a satisfactory relationship with their grandparents. If, on the other hand, you have answered no to any of them, you may want to review the following aspects:
1. Grandparents as a model
One of the most important forms of learning is what we do by observation. Every day we witness the behavior of those around us and consequently we can end up imitating their gestures, expressions and ways of acting. If an admiration component is added to this fact, imitation is guaranteed. In addition, in these circumstances we usually internalize the behavior of the people we admire so that their way of acting becomes an internal guide to our behavior.
From this perspective, we understand the importance of the relationship with grandparents as reference figures in our learning. They, with their life experience, are frequently? Or have they been? a source of wisdom and an example of behavior. Nor should we forget the indirect influence that grandparents have on their grandchildren through their parents, since by being a model for parents, they exercise a positive influence on grandchildren.
2. Grandparents in the distance
In recent years we are witnessing a progressive increase in the need to leave the place of origin for academic, work or family reasons. This fact makes it increasingly common to form a nuclear family far from the family of origin, with the distancing that this entails. This new circumstance can cause you to miss an opportunity of affection and contact with the extended family. Therefore, encouraging trips and visits and making them present on a daily basis through anecdotes and memories can be a way to supply the physical absence of these reference figures.
3. Grandparents in times of crisis
Recent surveys report that half of the grandparents give their children and grandchildren several days a week, one in three helps them financially and one in ten has received them at home. Undoubtedly, it is a support that they carry out with great affection, but which is a responsibility that can sometimes be difficult, even exhausting. Many times there is no other way out of this situation, however, being grateful and aware of your effort usually makes the load more bearable.
4. Grandparents and education
The dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language defines the word grandfather as "father or mother of the parents of a person". Therefore, our grandparents are the parents of our parents and not ours. This obvious statement can serve to remind us that exercising parental functions is still something that does not correspond to grandparents. Therefore, there are certain aspects of education, such as the establishment of limits and norms (usually the most difficult ones) that remain the exclusive competence of parents. So, are grandparents to consent? Maybe in its proper measure.
5. Grandparents and psychological well-being
More and more studies are able to demonstrate and confirm the obvious: the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is positive for both parties. There are studies that suggest that having a satisfactory relationship with grandchildren reduces the risk of depression in grandparents. The grandchildren, on the other hand, benefit from this relationship that influences their psychological well-being, not only in childhood but also in adulthood. The affective relationships that we establish in childhood with our attachment figures are internalized and configure the image we have of ourselves and our way of relating to others in adult life. It is well known that a good self concept is a protective factor against the risk of suffering anxious or depressive symptoms.
6. Grandparents as maintainers of the family bond
The grandparents fulfill a role of essential family cohesion. They can suppose a unifying figure in times of crisis or distancing and are in charge of the transmission and conservation of family values. With this they manage to give a sense of continuity and belonging to the family, so necessary in the construction of the individual identity.
In short, the relationship with the grandparents is a beneficial and perhaps non-negotiable part of family life, despite the possible discrepancies that we have with them or the generational leaps, more and more frequent because of how fast society advances. At this point we invite you to reflect again: do you think the aforementioned aspects are relevant for your family? Do you think you could change something for the relationship to be better? If so, where can you start?
Carmen Laspra Solis. Unit of Diagnosis and Family Therapy (UDITEF). University of Navarra Clinic