The other week, I took my five-year-old grandson swimming, along with one of his friends, to the YMCA. After several failed attempts to teach the boys to float face down, we played “Sea Hunt,” a game to find underwater treasure. The “Sea Hunt” game encouraged them to submerge themselves, without holding their noses, which gave them practice in holding their breath. After they learned to hold their breath, they eventually mustered up enough confidence to float face down. Later that afternoon when I had taken the other kid home, my grandson told me that his friend said that he doesn’t have a grandfather who plays with him and shows him a lot of cool stuff. He asked my grandson if I would be his grandfather too. I told my grandson that his buddy could come along with us whenever he wanted to but his parents or grandmother would have to find him a grandfather. Although I empathized with his friend, I was not interested in adoption. Grandmothers play an enormous role in the healthy mental growth of children but unfortunately it seems that with most children grandmothers are a common treat but grandfathers are a rare treat.
Researchers have found that grandchildren who have a close relationship with a grandfather are likely to perform well in school, display positive emotional adjustment, have higher self-esteem, and a greater ability to develop and maintain friendships. Grandfathers who report having close relationships with grandchildren describe the significant joy they experience as a result of the unconditional love they feel for their grandchildren. Spending time with their grandchildren and displaying photographs of them provides reminders of their connection to future generations. Even though the grandfather role and the grandfather-grandchild relationship changes over time, researchers have consistently revealed how grandparents, grandfathers included, provide a variety of unique contributions and benefits to their grandchildren’s lives.
Worldly and streetwise grandfathers, more so than bible-wise grandmothers, have lots of wisdom and life experience to draw from and they have seen events and changes come and go. Even their mistakes can have a positive purpose. Because grandfathers are one step removed from direct disciplinary and parenting responsibilities, grandchildren tend to be more relaxed, more open to sharing, and may ask more thoughtful questions of their grandfathers. As grandchildren grow, they make attempts to learn about their world their family, relationships, and society. A grandfather’s perspective, formed from years of experience, can help guide, inform, and influence the growth and development of his grandchildren. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that unhappy grandparents should remain together for the appearance of a family unit for the sake of the grandchildren. Unlike a father absent from the core family unit, when grandparents divorce or separate, the loving relationship a grandfather has with his grandchildren is still likely to continue because the relationship is forever established.
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