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Why Grandparenting Is Good for Us and Our Grandkids

Have you noticed that when grandparents get together we rarely show photos of our last vacation or prized orchids? We share photos of our always-adorable grandchildren. Why is that?

Research shows that grandparenting is good for us and good for our grandchildren. Two examples:

  • The 2018 AARP study “Grandparents Today” found that 89% of grandparents surveyed agreed that having grandchildren has a positive impact on mental health. 67% responded that having grandchildren also makes grandparents more sociable and more physically active than non-grandparents.
  • In a 2014 study, researchers at Boston College concluded that young adults who remain close with their grandparents are likely to have lower levels of depression. A similar study at Oxford University in 2018 suggested that teens and young adults with a high level of grandparental involvement had fewer emotional and behavioral problems.

What makes the grandparent-grandchild relationship so good for our and our grandkids’ emotional wellbeing? Martin Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, has developed a self-evaluation guide known as the PERMA model for promoting emotional wellbeing.

Read about the PERMA model HERE 

Learn more about Martin Seligman HERE 

The PERMA model can help grandparents a) reflect on their own experiences and b) play an active role in promoting the emotional wellbeing of their grandkids.

Here are the model’s components:

Positive Emotions: Joy, delight, and love are all positive emotions. So are gratitude, serenity, hope, compassion, and awe. These emotions inspire our engagement in the world and fuel our optimism. They help us perform better at home, school, and work, boost our physical health, strengthen our relationships, and inspire us to be creative and confident. 

Engagement: Close to thirty years ago Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi framed the concept of flow, a state when we are completely absorbed in an activity that challenges us creatively and intellectually. In the state of flow, time loses meaning and we feel an immense sense of presence. Whether it’s cooking, fishing, creating art, or playing games, grandparents can find many ways to feel joyful and fully present in our grandkids’ company.

Relationships: Strong relationships with family, friends, and peers enhance our own wellbeing. These relationships elevate us in good times and support us in challenging ones. In many ways, our relationships with our grandchildren and family members provide the foundation for all other elements of the PERMA model.

Meaning:  We are at our best when we dedicate our time to something greater than ourselves. For many of us, seeing our grandchildren provides a deep source of meaning. As grandparents, we can engage our grandchildren in activities that share this sense of generosity and meaning; religious observances, tzedakah, social justice, and working to heal the environment.

Accomplishment: Working toward goals, succeeding, and then reflecting on our accomplishments enhances individuals’ sense of self and self-confidence and motivates us to pursue future goals. Accomplishments can be graduating from a class, winning an award, or successfully reciting a b-mitzvah portion. It can also be finishing a puzzle, painting a picture, winning a board game, or building a stadium out of Legos.

PERMA can help guide you in your relationships with your grandchildren. As the research reminds us, being an engaged grandparent can promote our emotional well-being and enable us to advance the emotional wellbeing of our grandkids.

 

David Raphael is CEO and Co-founder of the Jewish Grandparents Network

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