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Grandparents play big role in families
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When families come together for socializing or in daily life, grandparents can use those times to do what they do best.
Patsilu Reeves, family life education specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said grandparents give the gifts of example and unconditional love. They fill a variety of roles in families.
“Grandparents provide unconditional love that helps children develop self-worth,” Reeves said. “Research has shown that children are positively impacted by interaction with their grandparents. Grandchildren treasure time spent with their grandparents, and they are emotionally healthier because of these relationships.”
One way grandparents can demonstrate their care and love is by spending extra time with the grandchild. In spending this time together, grandparents can be a role model for their grandchildren, helping the younger generation learn about their family's values, customs, beliefs and attitudes. Grandchildren can even learn manners from watching their grandparents.
Grandparents also can help young people learn about aging.
“Some children, especially teenagers, can have a very negative view of aging. When their grandparents approach life with a positive outlook and a good sense of humor, those children learn that growing older might not be so scary,” Reeves said.
Grandparents can be sources of fun projects as they do leisure activities and hobbies with their grandchildren. Grandparents also can teach their grandchildren as the free time many have in retirement can be filled with many educational activities and good conversations.
Grandparents can be peacemakers in the family.
“They can sometimes be the mediator and problem-solver between children and parents,” Reeves said. “This is a very difficult and delicate job, but the grandparent can sometimes play this role because of their problem-solving skills and distance from the problem.”
In many families, a grandparent is the adult a child feels most comfortable talking to and sharing troubles or worries. Today, many grandparents have become surrogate parents, raising their grandchildren as their own children.
Grandparents tend to be good historians for the family, serving as sources of information on previous and current generations.
“Grandparents can provide the reason and history behind family customs,” Reeves said. “They can explain why the family believes the way it does.”
When possible, encourage grandparents to commit family history to writing or record it on tape so this valuable, personal history is not lost.
“A shared family history is an important part of strengthening family ties,” Reeves said.
Nora Goliday of Starkville is a mother of three and grandmother of four. She said the role of grandparents today is quite different than in previous generations.
“Many grandparents are raising the kids, even if the grandchildren aren't at home with them,” Goliday said. “We teach them right from wrong, go to school with them, take them to activities and often pay for the activities. The kids are really hung up on grandparents because we are there for them.”
Goliday said the demands of the workforce keep parents occupied, and grandparents can often fill in when parents need help. She said taking a very active role in the grandchildren's lives at times means grandparents have to interrupt their own lives for the next generation.
“We need to be there for our grandkids because the parents have so much more to do,” Goliday said. “We do a little spoiling, but we're also involved in a lot of family activities.”
More information on families, parenting and grandparenting is available from local Extension Service offices.
Contact: Dr. Patsilu Reeves, (662) 325-3080