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The Special Role of Grandparents

Too Small to Fail
By Too Small to Fail

Grandparents and grandchild cuddle up

Many of us remember childhood time with our grandparents with fondness: almost like our parents but with more time to play and maybe more willing to spoil us a little.    

But grandparents also play a very functional role in today’s society. More than three million children in the United States are cared for every day by grandparents while their parents go to work.

As more parents enter the workforce in order stay afloat in a tough economy, and as formal child care becomes more expensive, grandparents and other relatives have become the go-to source for child care. Changing family structures have also contributed to more grandparents becoming primary caregivers, in some instances taking over when their grandchildren’s parents are unable to provide care.

Very young children can benefit greatly from spending quality time with their grandparents.  For example, several studies have shown that children whose grandparents talk, read and sing often to them show better vocabulary and emotional development, and are better able to manage stress.

Experts recommend several ways in which grandparents can be more successful in their role as caregivers. First, it’s important to establish mutual trust and respect with parents so that conflicts don’t arise. Additionally, grandparents can positively contribute to their grandchildren’s learning by sharing activities that promote their social, mental and emotional growth. Simple things like singing traditional lullabies, telling family histories or playing games can strengthen bonds with young grandchildren, and help them prepare to learn.

Read more:

  • Learn about important developmental milestones for babies and toddlers in this helpful factsheet from PBS.org.
  • Simple ways grandparents can improve bonding and learning with children, from KidsHealth.

In the News:

VIDEO: Attachment and child expert Dr. Jim Sears talks about why building secure attachments are important to children’s health. >>  

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