OPINION: The integral role played by grandparents in a child’s life

Relationships with a grandparent are unlike any other, it can shape us. Olivia McCann reveals why she believes we need to spend more time with our older relatives.

Throughout my entire childhood, my grandparents lived just a 10-minute walk away from my house meaning that, growing up, I saw them several times a week.

I have fond memories of going to my grandparents’ house for sleepovers until I was a teenager, being taught by my papa how to swim without armbands on a family holiday and looking for my grandparents’ beaming faces in the audience at the annual school prize-giving.

Having recently lost my papa – someone whom I had, and still have, such great admiration and respect for, I’ve come to cherish every memory I hold of my grandfather, even the smallest things.

Losing him has led me to realise the integral role a grandparent plays in a grandchild’s life, and just how important it is to build a strong relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Sharing Family History

Grandparents are great storytellers. One of my favourite things to do when I visited my grandparents was ask my papa for stories about his life. His face would light up when I questioned him about his past, spending hours looking through photos and keepsakes, reminiscing about his time in the Royal Navy.

As grand-children, it can be difficult to imagine our grandparents as young people, and listening to their stories is not only a way of learning family history but builds respect and admiration for our elders.

Studies reveal that listening to stories from older family members, such as grandparents, can help children deal with hardships. Children can learn morals from their grandparents’ stories – children are much more likely to learn from true stories knowing the events really took place.

Learning New Skills

I learnt many skills from my papa – some arguably more useful than others! My papa taught me how to colour in (without going over the lines), swim and some basic magic tricks. I don’t have any plans to become the next Dynamo or Derren Brown, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn important skills for later life. With magic, my papa taught me patience, precision and the art of performing.

The fast-paced nature of the modern world means family lives tend to be hectic, as a result, limiting time to teach important life skills.

Grandparents, on the other hand, often have more free time to teach through doing – all whilst building strong relationships.

A unique bond

Spending time together, trust will form between grandparent and grandchild encourage a bond and confidante for both parties.  It’s important for a child to be able to turn to a grandparent if they are worried or upset, as a grandparent often acts a voice of reason, knowing just what to share with parents.

I always found growing up that my grandparents were significantly less strict than my own parents, and I felt that I could tell them anything. Plus, grandparents can be excellent listeners.

I know that not every child will be as fortunate as I was, living in such close proximity to my grandparents’ home, but there are still ways of building a good relationship with grandparents who live further away. Children can call their grandparents, write letters to them or send photos (my nana especially loves when her grandchildren print off photos for her to display around her house).

A strong relationship between a grandchild and grandparent should never be underestimated.

Words: Olivia McCann

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