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Children Need Grandparents

Now there’s evidence based on interviews with children and grandparents that children need their grandparents and vice-versa. The study shows that the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is second in emotional power and influence only to the relationship between parents and children. Grandparents affect the lives of their grandchildren, for good or ill, simply because they exist. Unfortunately, a lot of grandparents ignore the fact, to the emotional deprivation of the young.

Of the children studied, only five percent reported close, regular contact with at least one grandparent. The vast majority see their grandparents only infrequently, not because they live too far away, but because the grandparents have chosen to remain emotionally distant. These children appear to be hurt, angry, and very perceptive about their grandparents. One of them said, “I’m just a charm on grandma’s bracelet.”

Positive roles that grandparents play are caretaker, storyteller, family historian, mentor, wizard, confidant, negotiator between child and parent, and model for the child’s own old age. When a child has a strong emotional tie to a grandparent, he enjoys a kind of immunity—he doesn’t have to perform for grandparents the way he must for his parents, peers and teacher. The love of grandparents comes with no behavioral strings attached. The emotional conflicts that often occur naturally between children and parents do not exist between grandparents and grandchildren.

Youthletter, September, 1981