Why Grandparents Are Essential—8 Wonderful Examples

We celebrate Grandparent's Day every September. And what better way to celebrate than to recognize all the wonderful ways grandparents contribute to family life.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #595

Each year, we celebrate Grandparent's Day on the first Sunday after Labor Day. For those fortunate to have grandparents in their lives, this holiday is the perfect time to acknowledge this loving relationship.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two incredible female role models, my grandmothers. Grandma, my paternal grandmother, and I shared a special bond—our birthday! We always counted down the days for our May birthday bash starting on New Year's Day. And Nana, my maternal grandmother, lived with us for ten years after my grandfather died. I hurried home after school each day to share the latest buzz with her, many times with a few friends in tow. She eagerly waited for us in her golden tweed recliner and listened to our drama-filled lives without judgment. Her advice was always spot on, and her sense of humor was unmatched.

When I revisit my childhood, the special relationship I shared with my grandparents always tops the list. And now that I'm a new grandmother, I cherish those memories even more as I begin to create new traditions with my young grandson.

Here are some awesome reasons to celebrate grandparents this Grandparent's Day!

1. Grandparents symbolize the essence of family

Being part of a family unit—knowing you have people who will love and care for you no matter what—is one of life's greatest gifts. For those who have grandparents included in this mix, that gift is even more precious.

Grandparents provide strong roots that keep us connected and united—a solid foundation that will benefit grandkids for years to come.

Grandparents offer a solid foundation from which families grow and thrive. We may think of warm chocolate chip cookies greeting us after a long road trip to visit them, or a porch swing that squeaked loudly every time grandpa rocked us while reading our favorite fairy tale. We have city grands who help us navigate the subway to visit an interesting museum, or our spunky Nana, who allows us to eat ice cream in the living room so we can be close by as she takes care of corporate business on her laptop.

Though today's grandparents remain in the workforce longer, they continue to symbolize the true essence of family by providing strong roots that keep us connected and united—a solid foundation that will benefit grandkids for years to come.

2. Grandparents connect us to our family history and sense of self

When my siblings and I vacationed at my grandparent's home on Cape Cod, we looked forward tagging along with them when they ran errands because they knew the coolest people! There was the cobbler who showed us how to make shoes, a baker who had dozens of types of fresh bread for sale (beyond the usual white and wheat we had at home), and the small-town banker who always asked if we wanted a new booklet to record our savings account. (Yes, please!)

Research has shown that children who know a lot about their families have higher self-esteem than those who only know a little.

These ventures into town were exciting. But my favorite thing was listening to my grandparents tell stories about their childhood. We eagerly anticipated these stories because we learned fascinating tidbits about our heritage and our dad's childhood antics.

Little did we know we were building our self-worth at the time. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, have found that children who know a lot about their families have higher self-esteem than those who only know a little. They're also more likely to feel in control of their own lives.

3. Grandparents provide stability

A close relationship benefits the health and well-being of both grandparent and grandchild. In an article for US News, social psychologist Susan Newman is quoted saying:

Grandparents are a security blanket. If there's somebody they trust and know is always on their side, that's a huge emotional plus for the child. They have somebody around who's comforting; who hugs them and sits with them and reads with them.

Unlike parents, grandparents often have more time to share with their grandchildren. And over their own years of parenting, they may have developed patience. And speaking of patience ...

4. Grandparents exhibit unlimited patience

Let’s be real—we live in a world of instant gratification. With the touch of a button, we can heat our food, connect with a friend across the world, or purchase an item online. Because of this high-tech and often demanding pace, our minds scurry from one thing to the next with little or no downtime.

When it comes to spending quality time listening to their stories, watching their attempts at learning new skills, or simply hanging out with no plan, it’s easy to forget that kids need adults present to witness as they grow and learn. Enter grandparents! Even hardworking grandparents typically have more time and patience to offer than busy parents.

5. Grandparents offer pivotal support for remote learning

As schools grapple with social distancing requirements that vary from region to region, and teachers continue to navigate the unchartered waters of online learning, families nationwide are adopting new learning models as students return in fall. As we enter a new school year, grandparents can become a valuable part of their grandkid’s learning team.

AARP’s article, A Grandparent's Guide to Helping Students Succeed With Virtual Education, listed some excellent resources to support families with distance learning.

 Distance learning resources

  • Grammarly offers a free Google Chrome browser extension to help students check for grammar and spelling errors. (Need some extra English language help? Check out the fantastic Grammar Girl podcast on Quick and Dirty Tips!)
  • Khan Academy is a free tutorial platform with short math videos that explain concepts as well as tutorials and courses on subjects like science, reading and vocabulary, history, and social studies.
  • PhotoMath and Symbolab. Students can submit a math problem and get help with solving it.
  • My Math Flash Cards is an app to help with basic math studies. (Get it for Apple or Android devices.)

6. Grandparents teach hobbies and life skills

My mother-in-law has always been passionate about cooking and sewing. Even when my kids were as young as three and four, she couldn’t wait to teach them how to make muffins from scratch and share the joys of making a steaming cup of tea and a homemade biscuit with jam in the late afternoon. Because of her, each of my eight kids can sew buttons and hem pants.

Grandparents are some of our kids' best teachers. They teach timeless skills such as home repairs, gardening, cooking, cleaning and organizing, and the pure basics of turn-taking, problem-solving, and the art of treating others with respect.

Lifeskills like these may not be included in a school curriculum, but are core subjects for grandparents!

7. Grandparents encourage a love of reading

One of my favorite ways to spend time with my 20-month-old grandson is to snuggle and read to him. He loves the excitement in my voice when I pretend I’m one of the characters in one of his colorful picture books, and I can’t stop smiling when I see the look of delight and contentment in his face each time we read together.

I recently read a terrific article, 4 Ways to Help Grandparents Start Their Own Reading Traditions with Their Grandkids. One of the suggestions was to make certain books "grandparent exclusives." The gist is to leave titles that will only be read at grandma’s house.

For a list of favorites, take a look at Reader’s Digest 18 Best Books for Grandparents to Read to Their Grandchildren. A book called Grandma Loves You is tucked away at my house now just for the two of us!

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8. Grandparents are champions of imaginative play

Kids don’t have nearly enough downtime these days. When they do, it’s easy for them to get lost in the world of electronics. In my episode, 8 Valuable Lessons Learned From Toy Story, my favorite tip was about how imaginations are priceless.

Toy Story emphasized how much Andy enjoyed his downtime. He was never bored because he knew how to use his imagination for hours of creative play. How refreshing!

Grandparents are some of the most imaginative people around. Whether it’s building sandcastles at the beach or making giant forts in their dining room, Grandma and Grandpa embrace adventure and cultivate fantastic play scenarios without worrying about how messy things might get.

There will never be a substitution for creative play. Kids, even teens, need an outlet to let loose and explore whimsy and unscheduled downtime. Kudos to all the grandparents who support and cultivate this necessary outlet to unwind and discover.

If you’re looking for ideas to get started, Pinterest has lots of ideas for jumpstarting imaginative play.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.