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Relationships: The Path to Longer, Happier Living – Grandparents and Grandchildren

This post was written by Jim Smith, a long time friend of Project Patch who worked as a therapist at our Youth Ranch and helped launch our Family Experience.  He no longer works at Project Patch but continues to serve families, teens and equip the church for ministry.

We live in a grandparents-and-grandchildren-PORTRAITwonderful and great country and yet sometimes our culture can stray a bit when it comes to values and priorities, especially in terms of what it takes to be happy and enjoy life.

I read a recent article that was excellent in highlighting the effect of positive relationships on the lives of those within those relationships. The article was Grandparents and Grandchildren Can Protect Each Other’s Mental Health

By Bahar Gholipour, August 12, 2013 (http://www.livescience.com/38807-grandparents-grandchildren-protect-mental-health.html)

I want to spend the next few articles talking about relationships and their effects on our lives. We are all in relationships, some bring us joy and some bring clouds while others seem neutral. All of these relationships effect us and we contribute to that effect.

Gholipour, quoting a study presented at this years Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York, found that both grandparents and adult grandchildren who felt emotionally close to the other generation had fewer symptoms of depression, and that “extended family members, such as grandparents and grandchildren, serve important functions in one another’s daily lives throughout adulthood.” This study looked at 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren, and tracked their mental health from 1985 to 2004.

The study showed that besides the positive mental-health effects of an emotionally close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, it seems important for grandparents to be able to reciprocate the help they receive from their grandchildren, according to the researchers. This would say that grandchildren feel good about helping their grandparents and the grandparents feel good when they can give back in someway to affirm the efforts of their grandchildren.

I have noticed in my family, ministry and practice that grandparents often have a special relationships with their grandchildren. I think it is because grandparents can do a good job of affirming or validating their grandchildren. Parents do this also but they have the burden of…parenting, which the grandparents do not and so are usually looking for more of the positive rather than the negative. This can generate a positive regard between grandparents and grandchildren. This positive regard often leads to conversations between grandparents and grandchildren during which grandchildren divulge fears, concerns, and ask questions that give grandparents opportunity for mentoring. As grandchildren grow up, this positive regard leads to acts of kindness that bring pleasure to the grandchildren and where grandparents are allowed to reciprocate in some way, this leads to pleasure for them.

This is a great example of how positive relationships create a sense of happiness for those who enjoy them and this leads to a more satisfying life which leads to less depression and disatisfaction which leads to a longer more satisfying life.


Have you communicate with your grandparents/grandchildren lately?