Updated: Apr 6, 2022
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren lasts longer nowadays. With increasing life expectancy, different generations are living together for longer. Intergenerational relationships - including relationships between grandparents and grandchildren - do not remain just in childhood but extend into adulthood. Intergenerational relationships are important in socialization and in promoting support, but they can also have tensions.
In my sessions, the subject of family is always present. I realize that expatriates face the challenge of managing the emotions from the distance, of keeping in touch with their roots and family. Among the family challenges, there is creating and maintaining relationships between grandchildren and grandparents.
A good grandparent-grandchild relationship is beneficial for both parties. For grandchildren, Research shows that for grandchildren, they develop greater kindness, generosity, with less anxiety and less chance of depression in the future. It can also contribute to a child's good school performance, strengthen self-esteem, develop emotional intelligence and the ability to make or keep friends.
For grandparents, participating in their grandchildren's lives has mental health benefits. Research shows that caring for grandchildren can give elders a sense of meaning, identity and purpose, especially when they are no longer working.
Of course, these benefits come from caring and respectful family relationships. This is the first step. For us expats, there is still another challenge: how to create and maintain a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren when they live in different countries?
Parents should encourage as much contact and bonding between their children and grandparents as possible. For those who live far away, it is important to speak more regularly, using video communication technologies for example, encouraging children to learn their grandparents' language so that they can communicate without the need for intermediaries, and trying to make more visits when possible.
Based on studies by researcher James S. Bates on the effects of grandparents on their families, I have selected the following topics that grandparents, even at a distance, can influence in the lives of their grandchildren.
Build a family tree: Help grandchildren understand and interpret family history. They tell who the grandparents' grandparents were, what they did, where they came from, and so on.
Mentors: teach and impart life knowledge and practical skills when they are together.
Spiritual: Offer comfort, encouragement, and advice.
Character: They strive to nurture and shape the character and personality of their grandchildren so that they become ethical and responsible members of society.
Family identity: encourages strong family relationships and appropriate interpersonal behaviors among family members.
Investment: help grandchildren become financially self-sufficient in adulthood.
If you are an expat grandmother or grandfather, you can use these checklists to be more active in your grandchildren's lives. And if you're an expat and want your kids to have contact with their grandparents, you can use this list yourself as an inspiration to encourage these interactions between grandparents and their children.
Link to the article on which this one was inspired: