HEALTH MATTERS: Grandparent-grandchild relationships offer health benefits
Whether grandparents and their grandchildren are nearby or far removed, the love given and received by both knows no boundaries.
In fact, researchers at the University of Oxford in 2014 found that close relationships between grandchild and grandparent often resulted in fewer emotional, social and behavioral problems.
A June 2016 study by Boston University researchers found that close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms on both sides of the spectrum. Other research has proven that caring for grandchildren can help prevent depression, boost social connections and keep older adults mentally sharp, according to U.S. News.
A CLOSE CONNECTION
Ocoee residents Ando and Lyn Ferrer have a special bond with their nearly 2-year-old grandson, Braxton. This is because they get to watch him about five days a week while his mom is at work.
The two of them work, but with different schedules, they are able to tag-team Braxton’s care so he gets to spend time with both. They’re also raising their youngest daughter, Bailey, who is 16.
“Most grandparents are retired, or at least one of the grandparents doesn’t work,” Lyn said. “We still have to work, raise Bailey, and then we have Braxton. … We’ve gotten really close, and when Mom drops him off he gives her a big kiss and a ‘Bye, Mama!’ There’s not anxiety (from) being left with multiple babysitters, so he has that opportunity to be close to his grandparents.”
And with four daughters, one granddaughter and another on the way between the two of them, it’s also nice for Ando to have his “little buddy.”
“It’s a nice change to have him and get to do things with him that I used to do with Bailey when she was little,” he said. “I get to go back and go outside and play with him, hit the tee ball, play soccer or we just run around and chase each other. He’s a very cool kid.”
A typical daytime routine involves Braxton spending time with Lyn throughout the day until Ando gets home from work. That’s when Lyn can focus on coaching gymnastics, while Ando gets to spend time with Braxton.
“Everything is about consistency and that’s what we give him,” Lyn said. “Our goal is absolute consistency. He gets all his sports in with Doe Doe (Ando) and he looks forward to that. It’s a routine.”
“We’ve been doing it for so long, it’s like second nature,” Ando said. “He is our grandson, but we don’t treat him any different as if he were our own son.”
However, not all grandparents have the opportunity to see their grandchildren often, whether it be through physical distance or estrangement. That’s why Winter Springs resident Donna Skora created the Surrogate Grandparents USA Facebook group nearly three years ago.
“My husband and I are unfortunately alienated grandparents,” she said. “(Because) we cannot find a way to have a relationship with our grandchildren, I decided to find some way to turn our situation from a negative into a positive. Researching things I realized surrogate grandparents is something that has taken hold in the U.K., but there was no such group for anyone in the U.S.”
Surrogate grandparents essentially take on the social role of grandparents for nearby children. But it’s not just about connecting with someone — it’s almost like adopting someone into your family, Skora said.
Three years in the making, Skora’s Facebook group now has nearly 2,900 members — all of whom want to find that positive, loving connection.
“There are so many grandparents out there that are missing having a relationship with grandchildren, whether it be through distance, the death of a loved one or missed connection,” Skora said. “(Also) there’s a study out there that says grandparents who have connected with grandchildren, it’s healthier for them. They live a longer, happier life. … I grew up with two sets of grandparents, and it was a loving, nurturing time.
“Then you have families whose children don’t have grandparents, and they want that for their children when it’s not available,” she said. “It’s the love and emotional connection of having a surrogate grandparent step in for your child if you don’t have a biological one.”