A Unique Bond
“I grew up living near all four of my grandparents,” recalls Linda. “We had wonderful relationships right from birth. I spent the most time with my paternal grandmother. She was always there for me when I was growing up. When she became a widow years later I was there for her, too.”
While this idyllic relationship may have been commonplace a generation ago, the picture in the 21st century is quite different. There are 55 million grandparents in the United States; it is the fastest growing segment of the population. But their role in today’s family is not as clearly defined as it was in the past. “My ideal grandparent is one who will spend time with the kids and offer unconditional love,” comments Linda. “Children get enough criticism from their parents; they need fun times with their grandparents.”
Professor Robert Strom who teaches Life Span Development Psychology at Arizona State University has developed a curriculum to help today’s grandparents define their place in society. “There is a dramatic difference between this generation of grandparents and previous generations." Years ago families were less mobile. Grandparents lived nearby where they could be supportive to the family. "Today’s grandparents may be living longer and are better educated, but when it comes to their position in the family they are uncertain about their role," says Strom. "They tend to entertain the kids more than support the parents. They assume too little responsibility. They are not contributing as they could be.”
“Historically, children were not raised by two people alone as we expect in today’s culture,” comments Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, president of the Foundation for Grandparenting. Children were raised with the help of the extended family.
“The grandparent/grandchild bond is very special and unique,” Kornhaber adds. “It is biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. There are untold benefits to both the adults and children in these relationships. The love is unconditional. They’re crazy about each other just because they breathe!”
“This is a delightful time in our lives,” says Bobbie Jenkins, who with her husband, has four grandchildren. “Our goal as grandparents is to love and nurture these children. I want to be a good listener to them, to confirm and build them up. I want to give them extra love and do things with them their parents can’t.”