There are abundant blessings in being a grandparent. Granted, there are challenging family situations which take a toll on grandparents, however when you examine these benefits—and many are supported by research—there are many reasons to smile. Here are four to consider:
First, the power of touch. Research has demonstrated over and over that when we touch another person in a healthy and caring manner, the hemoglobin level in the bloodstream rises, which is a good thing. In addition, when people (in this case grandchildren and grandparents) are exposed to more touch, they often have a decrease in inflammatory cells and an increase in white blood cells, which are known as disease-fighter cells. What could be more beneficial than hugging, embracing and affirming our precious grandchildren?
Second, physical health. Having grandchildren and being active in their lives has positive outcomes for our bodies. When grandparents participate in activities like playing outdoor games, gardening, walking, going to playgrounds, exercising, swimming and even working outside with their grands, it keeps us youthful. The positive outcomes of physical activity for grandparents who are 50 years old and older are well known. It improves our joint mobility, physical strength and energy level, but also enhances sleep and can prevent illness and disease.
Third, mental health. In a longitudinal study spanning nineteen years, when grandparents and adult grandchildren described their relationship as “emotionally close,” both had fewer symptoms of depression. In a different but parallel study of grandmothers, researchers noted that grandmothers who spent time caring for or babysitting their grandchildren performed better on cognitive tests than grandmothers who didn’t have that opportunity.
Last, “retail therapy.” Okay, this one is based more on personal observational data, but I’ve noticed a definite flood of positive endorphins flowing when my wife, who is “Nana” to eleven, purchases or creates gifts to give her grandchildren. It begins with finding and buying the perfect gift or card, but extends as she watches her grandchildren open or use that gift—she receives a second burst of endorphin joy. My role is to balance the books and make sure there are always available funds for these important purchases.
It’s undeniable: the benefits of grandparenting abound, and they’re growing. Although there is much more research focused on parent-child relationships, fresh insights are emerging which let the “light of grandparenting” shine. And it’s a win-win for us, demonstrating that Grands Matter and bringing more shining smiles to our faces.