There is something incredibly special about the bond between grandparents and grandchildren, and it’s so much deeper than fresh cookies and free babysitting.
It’s not always easy, and it can sometimes make for long road trips, but when we foster a positive relationship with their grandparents, our kids benefit. It’s often said that grandparents are prone to babying the next generation, but all that extra love doesn’t make them soft—it makes them strong.
Here are five reasons why a close bond between grandparents and grandchildren is an amazing gift
1. They’ll have a built-in support system
The Boston Globe reports that children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.
In a very real way, grandparents can provide a sense of security and support that helps kids through adverse childhood experiences.
2. Having an intergenerational identity increases kids’ resilience
Other research suggests that having an intergenerational identity, or an understanding of one’s family history and where they fit within it, can make kids more resilient and help them feel more in control of their lives, even when the world outside their family seems out of control.
As Bruce Feiler notes in his book, “The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More” psychologists studying resilience in children after the September 11 terrorist attacks found those who knew a lot about their family history were better able to cope with stress.
Knowing how their grandmother came to America, or what store their papa bagged groceries in as a teenager can help a child understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Knowing that, and knowing that previous generations survived their own hard times, helps kids learn to cope and bounce back from their own adversity.
3. Close ties to grandparents make kids less ageist
We are all going to get old someday, and we certainly don’t want the next generation to be discriminating against us when we get there. Luckily, the best antidote to ageism is to foster positive relationships between children and their grandparents.
According to a study involving 1,151 Belgium kids aged 7 to 16, kids who are close to their grandparents are less likely to show bias towards older adults. Kids who had a poor relationship (not necessarily in terms of quantity of contact, but rather the quality of it) were more likely to have ageist views.
4. Staying close with their grandparents protects kids from depression as adults
A 2014 study out of Boston College linked close emotional relationships between grandparents and adult grandchildren to lower rates of depression—for both the elderly and their adult grandkids.
For the grandparents, having a close relationship to an adult grandchild exposes them to new ideas, and the adult grandchildren benefit from the life experience and advice they get from a grandparent, the Boston Globe reports.
5. Kids help grandparents live longer
The science is pretty clear that staying close to your child’s grandparents (even if you can’t live right down the street) is good for everyone. The kids become more resilient, and grandparents become healthier: Research suggests grandparents who watch their grandchildren add more years to their life. An intergenerational connection really is a win-win.
A version of this post was published October 11, 2018. It has been updated.