I recently read an article published in the Deseret News by Lois M. Collins that summarized the conclusions of a study conducted at Brigham Young University, which researched the impact that grandparents have on their grandchildren. Jeremy Yorgason, assistant professor at BYU, and co-author Laura Padilla Walker, asked questions about communication, whether or not the child felt comfortable discussing problems, or if they asked for advice about important decisions. They amassed responses from 408 children, ages 10-14, all from different families, and found that children who had close relationships with at least one grandparent had “higher pro-social behavior,” such as being kinder to others, building social skills, and being more engaged and more pro-active about their own education.
The reasons behind the results are less clear: “Maybe grandparents teach certain social skills, like how to treat other people. Maybe they model certain behavior,” Yorgason says. Grandparents Margaret and Don Peterson were highlighted in the article, as well as their three granddaughters, ages 5 to 12, who “come over regularly to do crafts and play games and be loved.” The Petersons not only spend time with their local grandchildren, but also visit with their grandkids in New Jersey every week using Skype.
“The take-away message,” concludes Yorgason, “is that it’s healthy to spend some time with grandparents, and if you’re not as connected, you might want to get more connected. And for grandparents, the message is that you can make a difference in a grandchild’s life.”
What better way to get connected–or more connected, I thought, than through Readeo? My children adore my parents, even though they currently live oceans away in Hong Kong, and I realized that nowadays, the geography just doesn’t matter. Their grandparents are a part of their daily lives merely because they spend time BookChatting, Skyping, and calling my daughters, who in turn draw endless pictures and send up myriad prayers in my parents’ behalf.
Though my own grandfather passed away when I was only 14 years old, his influence on me was incalculable. I learned how to tell a weed from a sprouting prize peony (his own hybrid breed) while weeding in his garden, and I gleaned my first insight about true love when he quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beautiful poem, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” each time my grandmother walked into the room. I listened to his stories for hours, about working a farm, raising Belgian horses, living life as an infamous and rakish pool-shark in tiny backwater towns, or studying at Harvard (“Harvard ruined me, kid,” he’d say…seven degrees and a doctorate to the contrary). His love of the earth inspired me to plant my own peony bush twenty years later, and his love of learning and education shaped my university experience and my career choices. He could not have calculated the impact he would have on my future–his stories were simply a context for sharing his character–his legacy–with me. Since I had such a relatively brief time with my grandpa, I was fortunate enough to live just down the street from him.
But my kids are not so fortunate, like countless others who are similarly geographically challenged. Thank goodness for technology, for the resources we have to share our own stories, no matter the miles.
This month, Readeo is offering five free titles, all about grandparents, to help you share your stories with your little ones:
Grandma’s Wedding Album
Polka-dot fixes Kindergarten
My Granny Went to Market
That’s What Grandmas Are For
That’s What Grandpas Are For