Taking on this new role and being aware of what it consists of is fundamental to understanding its function in the family.
Lina Marcela Benítez, Psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare.
The images of grandparents that are old, loving, far away and out of style are beginning to collect their dust on post cards and old photos. Grandparenthood can be experienced in different ways, not just because some older grandparents have an attitude of openness and learning with regard to their grandchildren – different than what they had with their children – but because sometimes, this state of “grandparenthood” surprises parents that are still young, which has an influence on their relationship with their grandchildren.
It may be that for these young grandparents, it is difficult and strange to take on the name “grandparent” or any other related nickname, they may not have any peers to relate with because their situation is so unique, and they may be shocked to be pushed up a notch in the scale of generations. Without admitting to it, they may even feel that this role pushes them into premature aging, as if becoming a young grandparent were a contradiction in terms of genealogy; or they may even feel loss because their children were rushed into parenthood. Whatever the feeling may be, the situation must be addressed in the best way possible.
According to psychologist Lina Marcela Benítez, “How this new situation is faced depends on the coping strategies that each person has developed throughout their whole life. For some adults, this tends to be an unexpected situation more than a blow to the ego; in the end, they manage to come to terms with it through the experience and maturity of having gone through the journey of parenthood themselves.”
Being a grandparent
Beyond this particular situation, being a grandparent creates many changes in people’s lifestyles; adapting to and becoming aware of this new role and the function it plays in family dynamics is key to the life of this new family member.
Choices do exist. The young grandparent can either take on a role that allows their child to take responsibility for the obligations and activities that they are able to perform, or they can take on a more active role because their child cannot yet meet all the demands and responsibilities that this new situation requires.
With regard to the grandchild, however, it is important that the boundaries of the father and grandfather, or of the mother and grandmother, be well established both in everyday discourse and with the responsibilities that, to the extent possible, the father or mother take on. There are also several other areas in which boundaries must be established, as the role of grandparents is at a different level than that of role of the parents, and their role is to complement how their children raise their kids from a different place in life.
The role of experience
The role of grandparents is essential for grandchildren because however old they are, they can contribute their experience and help children grow with the emotions that they develop. Along the side of grandparents, children develop a feeling of safety, confidence and affection, contributing to their emotional stability.
But not only do the grandchildren win from this relationship, grandparents benefit too, as they get to see the world through the eyes of their grandchildren. Through grandchildren, new expressions, advances in technology and new ways of being and doing become part of grandparent’s homes. Younger grandparents have the additional advantage of being able to share valuable time throughout the lives of their grandchildren and can have fun participating in many activities together.
In sum, having grandchildren allows grandparents to become aware of what they know and they let them know of all the love and care they are willing to give them. On the other hand, having grandparents allows grandchildren to have a connection with their history. If, for grandchildren, grandparents are the connection to experience (however old grandparents may be); for grandparents, grandchildren are the connection to what is new. This dialogue between two people from two distant generations brings great affection and great joy.
Being a grandparent is related to
getting the opportunity to enjoy time with grandchildren without having to play a motherly or fatherly role. It is a role that can be enjoyed at any phase of life.
Behaviors of a positive grandparent
- They respect the guidelines their children use to raise their own kids, even if they are not in complete agreement
- Their opinions serve as a reference point for the parents and they help them make decisions based on their experience
- They develop a special relationship with their grandchildren, the make time to be playful with them, treating them special, but without going overboard
- They take advantage of being able to share their experiences and memories
- They help teach parents with what they may be missing, but they do not try to change what they already know
55 to 60, is the average age that an adult becomes a grandparent
More opportunities than disadvantages
- Benefit from the joy and affection of a new family member
- Spend time with young children, play, teach and have fun
- Opportunity to do new things or do things that you did when you were a parent •