The benefits of family interaction for our children have been well documented. What’s becoming more clear are the benefits of being around children as we age and become grandparents.
Children learn skills by observing the world around them; language, coordination, and social interaction, among others. As we age, interacting with children can keep us active and sharpen our own cognitive skills, but also reduce stress and promote relaxation. For grandparents, this means having a relationship with their grandchildren truly is a win-win.
For Jim and Kathy White, being grandparents has meant getting to enjoy being parents again — but with more fun this time around. “It’s like parenting but more relaxed,” Kathy says, “We get to just love on them and do fun things without worrying so much about going by the book.” The Whites live in Hermosa, and are doting grandparents to Alexis, 18, and Zoey, 16, who live in Chicago.
Being active with kids reduces stress levels and helps grandparents stay fit, which has a host of long-term health benefits. When they get together as a family, the Whites enjoy indulging in a little childhood fun with their grandkids. Jim says, “You have to get down on their level — whether that’s on the floor or in the dirt or wherever — you have to be willing to get on their level and play with them.” Meeting kids where they’re at is fun, and it helps them explore their world. Not only that, it encourages grandparents to let loose and have fun, too.
If you can’t keep up with your grandkids’ antics, don’t worry. Doing activities like arts and crafts or reading boosts cognitive engagement while creating lifelong memories. Jim says, “When our grandkids were young we would sit them in our laps with a book and let them turn the pages or point out the shapes. Then that magical day came when they learned to read, and they wanted to spend time reading to us.” The books don’t have to be novels, and your grandchildren don’t have to be the next Van Gogh. Simply spending time with each other engaged in a creative activity and being in the moment is what counts.
Devoting time to chat one-on-one with grandchildren is also important, especially as they grow older and are more curious about their world. Kathy says, “Alexis will call us every other week or so and we’ll chat — sometimes for up to an hour — and she’ll ask us questions about things or life or whatever, and that’s special to us.” Sharing family stories or perspectives gives grandparents a chance to reminisce about their own life, but can also give grandchildren a sense of identity. It’s a great way to boost memory, improve mood, and above all, bring the entire family closer together.