Meet the gramps!

Grandparents play a significant role in our children’s lives, not least, the stability and cultural connection they bring, writes Fiona Walker, CEO and principal of schools at Julia Gabriel Education.


Children are more likely to grow up knowing their grandparents, and in many cases great-grandparents, as people the world over live longer and many countries like Singapore experience increasingly ageing populations.

Summing up the importance of grandparents, which Singapore will honour on 23 November, American author Jay Kesler says, “Young people need something stable to hang on to — a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their own future. Most of all, they need what grandparents can give them.”

Role models

Grandparents provide stability, cultural connections, a sense of the past and hope for the future. While relatives, friends, educational organisations, personal experiences and parents also provide these, most of us lucky enough to have known at least one grandparent during childhood will cherish them for one reason or another. He or she was the person we snuggled up to for a comforting cuddle, who told funny stories, offered a kind word, or the ally who allowed us to get up to mischief when our parents were not looking…

That said, not all grandchildren have deep connections with their grandparents as children brought up in nuclear families may live too far away from their grandparents to be able to form strong bonds. In 1965, the University of Chicago’s Bernice Neugarten, viewed as one of the leading gerontologists at the time, identified five patterns of grandparenting that are still considered relevant today:

• The formal grandparent
Occasionally helps with the grandchildren and though interested in their overall wellbeing, tends not to become too involved in their lives.

• The fun-seeker grandparent
Primarily provides entertainment for the grandchildren.

• The source of family wisdom
Usually a grandfather who assumes a patriarchal role within the family — he provides advice and resources.

• The distant figure
Appears only on holidays and special occasions but otherwise, has little contact with the grandchildren.

• The surrogate parent
Acts as the grandchildren’s primary caregiver.