f t 9 !

Celebrate Grandparents!

Amy Goyer,Family & Caregiving Expert, AARP
By Amy Goyer,Family & Caregiving Expert, AARP

grandparents and baby

In celebration of Grandparents Day, we asked Amy Goyer, AARP’s Family & Caregiving Expert about the important role grandparents can play for children, especially when it comes to supporting their learning and development. Here are the insights and tips she shared.

Q1: Why do grandparents play such an important role in the lives of young children?

A1: The more loving adults children have in their lives, the better their chances are of success. Grandparents can play a pivotal role in supporting their grandchildren by showing interest in their lives, listening to them, cheering them on, and acting as a sounding board. Grandparents are often their grandchild's biggest fans! There is something special about the skipped generation relationship.

Q2: What are a few things grandparents can do with their grandchildren to support their learning and development?

A2: Research indicates that reading well is a crucial skill for children throughout their education and a predictor of success. Reading together can strengthen bonds, making it a great opportunity for grandparents to read to young grandchildren. And as grandchildren get older, grandparents can ask their grandkids to read to them. Grandparents can take their grandchildren to the library, and can share their own love of reading and books by talking about different characters in books they read together. Grandparents can also tell stories about their experiences growing up, and turn their memories into stories. Overall, grandparents can be positive role models by communicating their enthusiasm about reading and sharing their own memories. 

Grandparents also can incorporate learning experiences in their time spent with grandchildren. For example, they can take them to a museum or a library or do arts and crafts together.

Q3: What are some special ways that talking and singing can strengthen bonds between grandparents and grandchildren?

A3: In general, stronger relationships are built through shared experiences and conversations. When grandchildren are young, the best thing grandparents can do is to demonstrate supportive emotional bonds by talking to their grandchildren as much as they are able to. Making up stories or sharing their experiences of growing up can be interesting and fun for grandchildren. AARP's research indicates that as children get older, grandparents and grandchildren talk about topics such as morals/values, staying safe, school, spirituality, news and problems a grandchild is dealing with. Talking about these types of topics creates a strong bond between grandparents and grandchildren when grandkids feel unconditional love and no judgments from grandparents. Listening to grandchildren is one the most important things a grandparent can do to build a strong bond.

As a music therapist myself, I highly recommend singing with grandchildren, especially young grandkids. Singing together not only creates a fun, inclusive atmosphere of togetherness, it's also a great way to learn and promote vocabulary and brain development. Keep your grandchild's favorite music in your car or at home for their visits. Introduce them to new music experiences like concerts or music lessons. Make up songs together! 

Q4. What are some ways parents and grandchildren can celebrate their grandparents? 

A4: The most important thing is to let grandparents know how much they are valued. Send a greeting card (grandparents love handmade cards and thank you notes!), take a photo together and frame it, draw a picture, create a digital picture frame, have a surprise visit, have dinner together. Most importantly, spend quality time together and tell grandparents what a difference they are making in their grandchildren's lives.

Q5. What kinds of everyday routines help grandparents and grandchildren develop a close relationship?

A5: Some grandparents live near grandchildren and get to see them on a daily basis. For some, the daily routine is stopping by after daycare or school, taking a walk, picking up the mail, eating a snack or having dinner together. For others, grandparents may have the opportunity to take care of their grandchildren while their parents are at work. This gives grandparents the change to feel extra connected to their grandchildren, helping to build special bonds at a young age. This creates a positive foundation for building a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.