by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.

As I began in last week’s post, we’re gradually releasing results and insights from our recent survey on grandparents and the pandemic. I’m still analyzing the data, but there are some results I want to share.

First, this was an opportunity to get feedback on grandparents’ experiences and feelings in general, before the pandemic. And as you might expect, when we asked grandparents for a word or a phrase which expressed their feelings about being a grandparent, the responses were overwhelmingly positive: 88% of the grandparents chose positive words like: blessed, wonderful, joyful, grateful, awesome and honored.

The remaining 12% of responses, which expressed more negative feelings, commonly used words like: overwhelming, challenged, exhausting and painful. We can assume that those grandparents are facing challenges like raising their grandkids or dealing with difficult relationships with the grandkids’ parents.

One of the main purposes for the survey was to get a picture for how grandparents are (or were) handling the social distancing and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, and there were some significant insights surrounding a question about how the pandemic has changed their relationships with their grandchildren.

  • 42% of the grandparents agreed that their relationship with their grandchildren “stayed the same.”
  • 31% of the grandparents reported that their relationship with their grandchildren “became stronger.”
  • 27% reported that it “became weaker.”

Looking deeper at this question, significant differences (<.05) appeared between grandparents who reported their relationship to their grandchildren “became weaker,” when compared to the “stayed the same” and “became stronger” groups. The “became weaker” group scored lower in health indices—specifically: physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. The “became weaker” group reported lower family/life satisfaction scores and were more likely to feel depressed, tired and hopeless.

The “stayed the same” group had the highest mental acuity score, and it was significantly higher than both the “became stronger” and “became weaker” groups. The “stayed the same” group was older that the other two groups, and they were more likely to be married when compared to the other groups. Younger grandparents (age 45-54) were significantly more likely to “become stronger” in their relationship with their grandchildren compared to older grandparents (age 64-72).

Now, these results are designed to provide some general insights, so I hope you aren’t overly discouraged—nor puffed up—if they seem to put you in specific categories as a grandparent. The landscape of grandparenting is diverse and rich, and it’s up to each of us to take the unique situation before us, with all the various blessings and challenges, and make the best of it. Many grandparents have been able to find ways to reconnect more with our grandkids lately—even in person—as we gradually move toward something closer to “normal.” And that’s a huge blessing.

Also, remember that your grandparenting role is often affected by other areas of your life—your physical health, your mental outlook, your emotional state, and so on. Sometimes it feels like a balancing act to keep everything going in a positive direction, and there are times of frustration. But even in the darkest of times, please don’t give up. Stay faithful and engaged. Your grandchildren do need your consistent presence and love in whatever amounts you’re able to give.

Would you say the pandemic has changed your relationship with your grandkids? Go to our Facebook page to comment and discuss with other grandparents.