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Grandma’s Brain Benefits From Spending Time With Kids, Study Finds

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Grandma’s Brain Benefits From Spending Time With Kids, Study Finds

Planning on hiring a babysitter to look after your children while you are away with work? On top of the financial costs, how can you be sure they are getting the love they deserve? Thankfully, all your worries can be calmed by simply looking to the wonderful women who raised you. Having grandma look after your kids is the most natural and rewarding experience for all.

You may imagine that this will place undue stress or uncomfortable situations on poor old granny. However, most grandmas would be delighted to spend more time with their grandchildren. Grandchildren can help to keep old people happy, joyful and energetic. Bonding with the newest and the youngest generation of the family brings a great sense of pride and happiness.

Grandchildren Bring Mental Health Benefits

It’s also believed that playing or whiling away time with children can increase grandma’s golden years. Dropping the kids at Grandma’s place can play an essential positive role in dealing with age related brain illnesses. So long as she’s happy to spare the time, you may actually be helping her fight against a number of mental health problems!

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An interesting study published in ‘Menopause’, a journal of North American Menopause Society, revealed that grandmothers who spend time taking care of their grandchildren exhibit lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive turmoil. An Alzheimer’s test  conducted on women between the ages of 57-68 further supports these notions. Those who scored the highest scores were the ones watching and playing with their grandchildren, at least once in a week.

It’s also been seen that frequent or regular social interaction can help older people to stay mentally fit and calm. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found  senior people who spend too much living alone without family interactions suffer from a 26% higher death risk during a period of seven years.

Closing the Generation Gap While Squashing Depression

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    Today, in many societies across the globe, senior people tend to live alone or with their better halves rather than staying together in one big family home. While they do not depend on their kids economically or socially, it has created a huge gap between generations – grandparents, parents, and offspring.

    Depression is less likely to happen if grandparents create a strong bond with an adult grandkid. Researchers belonging to the Institute on Ageing at Boston College analyzed data from 700 grandparents and grandkids over a period of 19 years. They found that deeper the relationship between the two, the less the depression.

    Factors that help create a stronger bond

    • When a child becomes more emotionally attached with the grandparents
    • When a child has a regular contact with his or her grandparent
    • When a child considers their grandparent to be a strong pillar of support

    Along with grandchildren, grandparents need support too. If grandparents receive tangible support, they are even more likely to escape from depression. Lead researcher Sara Moorman believes the greater emotional attachment and support exchanged between grandparents and grandchildren, the better their mental and physiological health.

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    Caring for grandchildren helps seniors avoid isolation, and thus, indirectly mitigates depression and early death. A strong, healthy bond between the grandparents and grandchildren has anti-depression benefits for both parties.

    Remember – She’s a Grandma, not a Nanny!

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      More time is also not always better, In fact, too much time can be a bad thing. Grandmothers spending five days a week or more time in babysitting actually scored lower on the Alzheimer’s test. Mood was considered to be a factor in this instance. Kids can drive their grandma’s crazy if they are particularly unruly and left together for extended periods of time. Grandmothers certainly don’t want to be treated as if they are just a ‘nanny’.

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      The time your children spend with grandma should be a great experience for both, not a chore! Here are some ideas for fun activities grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy together.

      1. Going for a walk in a park or nature
      2. Starting a book reading club together
      3. Creating a family tree
      4. Having a tea party
      5. Visiting a local zoological park
      6. Practicing or passing down a hobby
      7. Going on a day trip to a new place or city

      Whichever activity you choose, make it a special grandma and grandchild experience. Do not be tempted to bring a third person into the experience. If the distance between child and grandparent is an issue, utilize phone calls, social media, skype or anything you can to maintain a strong connection between them.

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      Joseph Summers

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      Last Updated on October 7, 2021

      Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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      Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

      In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

      Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

      There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

      Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

      Let’s get started, shall we?

      Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

      Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

      1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

      When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

      Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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      “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

      2. Teaches the Value of Family

      Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

      According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

      3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

      Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

      “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

      For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

      4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

      How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

      “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

      5. Creates a Safe Environment

      If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

      Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

      6. Reduces Stress

      This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

      According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

      So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

      How to Make Family Time Happen

      Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

      1. Family Dinners

      This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

      Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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      “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

      According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

      As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

      2.  Regular Movie Nights

      This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

      Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

      3. Game Night

      This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

      In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

      So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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      4. Sharing a Hobby

      If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

      Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

      Final Thoughts

      Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

      Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

      The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

      Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

      Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
      [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
      [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
      [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
      [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
      [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
      [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
      [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
      [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
      [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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