CLEVELAND, Ohio – This Sunday is Grandparents Day. And several studies have shown that when grandma and grandpa take an active role in their grandchildren's lives, everyone benefits.
According to Cleveland Clinic family medicine physician Neha Vyas, M.D., one big benefit that grandparents can get comes from chasing after little ones.
"We have noticed that grandparents who are involved in grandchildren's, or surrogate grandchildren's lives, are more active," she said. "They are entering their elderly years without as many aches and pains, because they have something that keeps them young and keeps them mobile."
In addition to keeping grandma and grandpa on the move, research has shown that involved grandparents report having more meaning in their lives, as well as lower levels of stress and depressive mood.
When it comes to mom and dad, Vyas said having grandparents nearby can help ease the burden of child-caring and overall stress.
And for the grandchildren, research has shown kids who get to spend a lot of time with grandma and grandpa tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems.
For families who are separated by geographical distance, Vyas said the technologically savvy can use videoconferencing apps to keep in touch.
If not, calling on the phone and writing letters helps keep the lines of communication open too.
Vyas said it helps to be specific - tell grandparents your child's teachers' names and their friends' names. This helps the grandparent and grandchild feel even more connected.
If grandparents are very far away, and frequent visits are not possible, Vyas said it's important for kids to be able to see what grandma and grandpa look like.
"It's important to have lots of pictures – not just in the digital realm – but to print out those pictures and have them around your house, so that grandchildren can see what their grandparents look like, and to have that exposure on a day-to-day basis," she said.
But, of course, Vyas admits nothing beats an in-person visit, so it's good to try to plan a trip to grandma's house whenever possible.
"There is some unconditional love between grandparents and grandchildren and when they go to grandma and grandpa's house the rules may change, and that's okay," she said. "As long as they're temporary. Kids are good at compartmentalizing and realizing that there may be some rules that apply in one person's house, and other rules that apply in their parents' house."