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A Special Family Bond—Grandparents

Grandparents play a pivotal role in the development and health of young children. As traditional figures in the life of children, grandparents are typically viewed as the solid and dedicated caregivers in the family unit. The role of grandparents has become more influential over the years as more are serving as surrogate parents to their grandchildren (“The Protective Role of Grandparents”).

The emotional relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can significantly affect the children’s academic, psychological, and social development. It has been shown that children have a higher level of self-confidence when grandparents give more affection (“A Grandparent’s Positive Influence”). Such emotional closeness has long-term positive impacts on children’s lives, including the value children derive from giving and receiving care from another person.

Benefits of Having a Grandparent

Parents clearly benefit from having a grandparent in a child’s life: There’s that extra pair of hands for diapering, soothing, cooking, and reliable childcare. But the children benefit, as well. Grandparents:

  • Provide a sense of family continuity and history;
  • Have stories to tell and are great transmitters of the family’s cultural heritage;
  • Contribute to the children’s sense of belonging and security;
  • Become additional role models;
  • Often have more time than do parents for reading stories, teaching new skills, and playing games; and,
  • Have a vested interest in the well-being and healthy development of their grandchildren.

Fostering Strong Grandparent/Grandchild Relationships

Grandparents can build a strong relationship with their grandchildren in several simple ways:

  • REGULAR VISITS: Regardless of whether children live close by or far away, parents can plan regular visits to allow their children and the grandparents to spend time with each other.
  • TALK FREQUENTLY: Frequent two-way communication between grandparents and their grandchildren is important for building a strong relationship. Keep in touch through telephone calls, virtual visits via Skype, photos, texting, emails, cards, drawings, or handmade items that show a child’s new skills (e.g., writing the child’s name).
  • SHARE SOMETHING: Grandparents and grandchildren alike have knowledge and skills that they can share with each other. The act of sharing binds the relationship and extends the knowledge and skill of both grandparents and grandchildren.

Grandparents’ Challenges

Grandparents raising grandchildren are faced with a myriad of unique challenges including financial, health, housing, education, and work issues. Many support systems and resources are available for grandparents raising grandchildren to help them cope with the unique challenges affecting their families. For more information, see the following link to the AARP’s GrandFamilies Guide – Raising Grandchildren: Family Issues.

Family Activity: Grandparent Connection

Educator Activity: “Grandparents” in the Community

Quiz for Parents: Grandparents Rule!


A Grandparents’ Guide: For Family Nurturing & Safety,” from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, provides grandparents tips to make profound contributions to their families and grandchildren.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Call To Action (PDF 382 KB), from the Administration for Children and Families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), addresses challenges facing families headed by grandparents.

Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002 (PDF 917KB), a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, provides information on several aspects of children’s lives, including housing and household members.

The Protective Role of Grandparents,” from the University of Florida, describes research results that indicate that a grandparent’s active presence in a child’s life serves as a protective factor, particularly as it affects a child’s self-esteem.

From KidsHealth:

The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference,” from eNotAlone, is a personal article about grandparenting from the grandparent’s perspective.

Grandparenting in the Digital Age,” from, gives quick tips for parents and grandparents on staying connected over distance.

Grandparenting: The Joys and Challenges (PDF 762KB), a detailed AARP brochure, describes the “changing image” of grandparents, the ups and downs of grandparenting, and the value that grandparents bring to the relationship.

A Grandparent’s Positive Influence,” from the University of Southern California, describes the results of a research study that illuminates the link between grandparental affection and a child’s self-esteem.

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Updated on 5/9/2012