If you think about it, human beings are the only species (with the exception of the occasional whale species) that actually have grandmas and grandpas that are invested and involved in children’s lives (1).
Additionally, there are researched-backed benefits showing that having grandparents involved not only enriches the lives of the children but the parents also (1). While in-laws can certainly create their own forms of drama and difficulties, raising your kids near their grandparents and giving them the opportunity to form their own strong relationships with them is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children (2). Here’s why!
Why Raising Your Kids Around Their Grandparents Is So Beneficial
First off, grandparents help raise happy adults! Research shows that kids who grow up having a greater emotional closeness to their grandparents end up being far less likely to struggle with depression as adults (1). One study researched 374 grandparents and 356 adult grandchildren throughout the years of 1985 and 2004, ultimately finding that better grandparent-grandchild relationships resulted in reduced depressive symptoms on both sides (1). Additional research determined that children between the ages of 11 and 16 showed similar results under the same circumstances (1).
Similarly, emotional intelligence is a trait that children learn by watching and learning from others throughout their lives (3). Since emotional intelligence is more important than one’s IQ in attaining success in life and a career, having your children spend time with their grandparents can help them drastically improve their emotional understanding (4).
Another reason that grandparent-grandchildren relationships are so great is that grandparents get better with age – especially grandfathers (1). Many studies examined the role that grandmother’s play in the lives of their grandchildren, showing them to be loving and beneficial, far beyond that of the grandfather. After the age of 60 or 70, however, studies show that grandfathers have a tendency to take the lead in the form of grandchild play (1). After a certain age, grandfathers actually tend to get more involved in the lives of their grandchildren, becoming better friends overall (1).
Lastly, and perhaps one of the greatest effects of allowing your children and their grandparents to develop strong bonds, is that having grandparents involved in the lives of your children helps grandparents live longer (1). Research shows that grandparents who regularly babysit their grandkids live much longer than same-age adults without any child-rearing responsibilities (5). The study examined 500 adults that were 70 years old and older, ultimately revealing that grandparents who had regular babysitting duties had a 37% lower mortality risk than others equal in an age without any kids to watch (5).
Research suggests that this boost in life expectancy has something to do with the need for mental activity and a healthy supply of purpose that comes for a grandparent when their grandchildren need them (1). While having children tends to have an aging effect on parents, it apparently causes the opposite for grandparents who are glad to have people to care for!
So while distancing and strained relationships can make it incredibly difficult to keep one’s kids and grandparents steadily involved in each other’s lives, it’s ultimately beneficial to both parties and greatly enriches both grandparent and child lives when they spend time together.
Written by Abbey Ryan-Elder