With evolving family structure and dynamics in the recent decade, wider generation gaps are a trend which is a likely manifestation of the decreasing communication between them, leading to growing distance and disconnect within a family. Given the shift from joint to nuclear families within the Indian cultural context, it becomes important to explore the changing roles of such a structure within the milieu of the society. The formative years of childhood are undoubtedly the most crucial in terms of the child’s growth and development. Therefore, the support and role of various family members assumes the greatest significance during the developmental phase of childhood.
Roles of Grandparents for Grandchildren in Indian Context
1. Helping in parenting. As has been transcending through the generations, grandparents typically in a joint family tend to serve as the backbone and support system for parents, to assist in caregiving and parenting of the children. Especially as both parents tend to be working, it is the grandparents who are able to devote their time, energy as well as their experience towards the nurturing of their grandchildren.
2. Source of wisdom and advice. Being the elders of the family, often the grandparents are looked upon as the experienced members and the authority figures, who help in major decision making for the entire household. Such a responsibility is typically also perceived by the grandchildren at an early age, as they begin to look to their grandparents as the final word.
3. Playmates and buddies. Often, it is the grandparents who become the child’s playmate, as they tend to have more time on their hands, and can be patient when around the grandchildren. However, such a bond is typical especially for younger children, who enjoy receiving the attention from their patient grandparents.
4. Pampering and special attention. It is typically the parental figures who tend to be the ones in charge of setting limits, deciding rules and regulations, and working towards disciplining the child. As a result, often grandparents are looked upon as the factors responsible for spoiling the grandchildren.
5. Mentors and role models. At the same time, the grandparents can also serve as role models and mentors, with the young children looking up to them for support and guidance. Inevitably, their life experiences enable them to be able to well-wishers and advisers for the grandchildren.
Points to Build Relationship with Grandparents
1. Don’t let the generation gap widen. Yes, there is likely to be a difference in the understanding levels of grandparents and grandchildren. However, make an effort to involve the alternate generations within your own activities, orienting grandparents to the advancements in technology and gadgets, while also encouraging children to imbibe the values and traditions transcending the family and its generations.
2. Patience. This is a virtue that is necessary to ensure a reciprocity between grandchildren and grandparents, and is not just restricted to the elderly patiently bearing the antics of their grandchildren. In addition, the children also need to be patient listeners towards the grandparents, and be willing to humour them and hear them out.
3. Enjoy and have fun! Despite of all odds, it is indeed a pleasure to engage with the elderly and therefore children need to be encouraged to build a positive relationship with the elderly members of the family, both for a mutual benefit for the happiness and solace of the grandparents, and the transmission of values and wisdom down to the grandchildren. And last of all, this also works out in favour of the parents, who get time off to themselves in the process!
There is no doubt that the grandparents play a very prominent role in shaping the culture of a society and it is through them information is transmitted to the younger populations. It is they who aid in the retention of value systems and the role they play in the lives of grandchildren is extremely important. Creating systems which support the elderly within our communities and which allow for greater respect and value being accorded to the role they play is a need of the hour. The wealth of knowledge they possess and the enriching experiences that they can call forth cannot be replicated by any other source.