Building the bond
This kind of close and beneficial grandparent-grandchild relationship does not happen overnight or without some effort.
Peggy and her husband, Sam, forged a close relationship with their grandchildren from the start. They were regular babysitters when the kids were younger. If there was a sports game or recital, they were there. "I just said, 'Hey, I get the grandchildren every other weekend,' and before I knew it, my children held me to it," Peggy says.
Peggy also benefits from a strong bond with her granddaughter. She is able to have the conversations with a teen that she craved, but could never have, with her own children when they were that age. She also can be an authority figure without the exhausting role of strict disciplinarian. Grandparents also seem to have a special ability to focus on accomplishments, instead of discipline and critiquing. Sam Harrington loves talking about or more correctly bragging about his four granddaughters, a fact likely not lost on them.
"My kids all laugh at me now, seeing how I am with the grandchildren," says Peggy, who admits to having been a very strict mother.
If the statistics hold true, the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship is bound to increase over the coming years. Attar-Schwartz's study points out that as the average lifespan increases, so will the likelihood of three- and four-generation families. And perhaps so will the number of grandparents dancing at their grandchildren's weddings, where they, too, will be breathing a sigh of relief that the turbulent adolescent years are over.
Cynthia Ramnarace writes about families and health from Rockaway Beach, N.Y.