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July Blog 2022: Grandparents and the Older Generation.

July 25, 2022


Grandparents and the Older Generation

There is not a better time to think about the older generation as we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee and recall the Queen’s role within her family.

Grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and great grandparents have always played a positive part in young people’s lives, often providing valuable additional role models. Today there are over fourteen million grandparents in the UK.

The strength of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren often lies in being a step removed from the parents.

This month we are looking at Grandparents and the older generations’ role in the family and in Early Years settings.

How much do we love a quote?

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” – Welsh Proverb

Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another.” – Richard Garnett

“The old are the precious gem in the centre of the household.” – Chinese Proverb

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged” from Proverbs 17:6

And finally…

“The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.” – Sam Levenson

Relationships with Grandparents


What benefits can these relationships bring? When we remember our own childhoods, some of us were lucky to have strong affiliations with our grandparents. Our lives were enriched by their loving participation in all aspects of our childhoods. From chocolate bars, pocket money, comics, stories, lifts, games, cards, food, outings, cinema, boot scrapers, love, and laughter. We both injected energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm to each other’s lives.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of these special connections between children and their grandparents. Studies have shown, however, that having actively involved grandparents can help children grow in confidence, cope with stress, and have fewer behavioural issues as they get older.

A grandparent’s love makes a real, lasting impact on a child’s future. A grandchild’s love contributes to a healthier, happier, and possibly even longer lives for grandparents.

Grandparents may have more time with their grandchildren than they did with their own children. This time, and their skills are often underutilised.

Encouraging Grandparents into your setting


These days, traditional families can be separated by distance and time. We live in a society where care of young and old is increasingly segregated, with very limited opportunity for the two age groups to interact. These generations could become great resources for each other, with life affirming connections.

With changing family patterns, increased life expectancy, growing numbers of dual-worker households and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents are now playing an increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives.

Loneliness is a pandemic amongst the older population, so playing with the young can help solve this problem. It’s a win-win situation as children get more opportunities for one-to-one reading and play time.

Children who regularly mix with older people see improvements to their language development, reading and social skills.

Twinning nurseries with care homes for the elderly, boost children’s literacy. Children can enjoy the increased attention and have more opportunities to develop their social and emotional skills.

Encouraging grandparents into your setting doesn’t need to be a full-blown twinning with a care home. It can be as simple as a nominated Grandparents Day.

What the groups do when they meet should be relaxed, for example playing a game or

reading a book together.

It may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but research has

proven that these interactions can have fantastic benefits for each generation.

Involving Grandparents in your setting


While a great deal is written about parents, relatively little is written about grandparents, and their relationships with grandchildren.

Today few live directly with the grandchild, and their role is commonly seen as helper rather than family disciplinarian.

Contemporary grandparents and grandchildren see each other moderately frequently. Their relationship will be quite close and satisfying, rather than conflictual, and is seen as positive and important by both generations.
Grandparents and grandchildren do all sorts of things together, such as taking part in family events, having treats, imparting family history, playing games, going on holidays, shopping, watching TV or videos, babysitting, giving emergency help, and giving personal advice.

Try to avoid assumptions, bear in mind that a young grandparent might be no older than some parents. The grandparent who grew up in the Sixties may be more liberal than their children! It’s also important to be sensitive to those grandparents who love spending time with their grandchildren but do not want to take on the identity of ‘grandma’. As with any parent partnership, take the time to get to know the individual and respond accordingly. Showing respect towards someone’s greater age and life experience goes a long way towards smoothing out generational differences.

Remember, the Grandparents might be the full-time carers.

Help your grandparents to feel at home with you


The presence of grandparents in the setting gives the practitioner a wonderful opportunity to connect with the child’s extended family, learn more about the child’s home context and make the most of all that is positive within generational differences. Linking with all the adults who share care of a child can greatly enrich the life of both the setting and the child.

Many grandparents quite rightly see themselves as knowledgeable and experienced child carers – but at the same time, Nursery education has changed since they were parents, and they may question aspects of your practice.

The older generation’s misunderstanding of the child-centred approach is a typical example, and you may find yourself explaining to a concerned grandparent that ‘child-centred’ does not mean allowing children to ‘run riot’. Set up open and respectful conversations, you may discover more similarities than you might think – and establish the basis of a true partnership by learning from each other.


Children that do not have any interactions with the older generations do not automatically have respect for them. This value will need to be taught.

Intergenerational activities show individuals that they are valued. This will increase self-esteem and friendships.

Where there are positive outcomes for children, it is always worth having a go.


With enormous thanks to Wendy for the magical images she took of her fairy garden, especially created for her granddaughter Maya.


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