We all love our parents. That’s a given. But maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with older family members can sometimes be a challenge. However, studies have found that strengthening family bonds can not only help children develop valuable social skills, it can also encourage good behavior in children, improve parent-child communication, boost their academic performance and improve self-esteem among family members. Here’s why you need to focus on rebuilding relationships with your family members and parents…
“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” – Johann Schiller
It is no secret that the bonds between parents and children can have a positive effect on physical and emotional health. But often we fail to consider the impact that similar bonds with other older family members can have on our lives and well-being. From a young age, we may be told to respect our elders and spend quality time with extended family. But what are the real benefits of strengthening these relationships? Is there more to the picture? According to research, the answer is yes.
The Benefits of Strong Relationships With Older Family Members
A recent study on children and teens in England showed that those who had strong relationships with their grandparents were less likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems. This influence is most evident when the grandparent/ grandchild relationship complements a close relationship between parents and children.
But the benefits of these relationships are two-fold. For an older family relative, a connection to younger generations exposes them to new ideas and activities. This physical and mental stimulation can slow the rate of cognitive decline, improve physical health, and increase longevity.
An Australian study found that grandmothers who watched their grandchildren on a regular basis performed better on cognitive tests than those who did not have regular contact with grandchildren.
It appears that the benefits of close relationships with older family members even extend to adult grandchildren. One study even found that grandparents and adult grandchildren who were emotionally close were each less likely to experience depressive symptoms.
“Our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself. Beyond this they almost always made countless sacrifices as they cared for and nurtured us through our infancy and childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, and nursed us through physical illnesses and the emotional stresses of growing up.” – Ezra Taft Benson
Now that you know some of the more tangible benefits, here are five reasons why you should consider devoting extra attention to strengthening your relationship with your older family members.
1. Older Family Members Are a Resource for Life Wisdom
Most of us seek advice from friends when we face an uncertain situation. All too often, we fail to think about getting advice from our older family members whose lives are comprised of successes and failures woven into a rich tapestry of life lessons.
Whatever circumstance you may be facing, there is a good chance that your older family member has lived through something similar and can offer first-hand advice to help you navigate the road ahead.
“Parents lend children their experience and a vicarious memory; children endow their parents with a vicarious immortality.” – George Santayana
2. Understanding Our Roots Gives Us a Sense of Belonging
Strong family bonds that span multiple generations strengthen our core identity and feed our innate desire for connectedness and belonging. Studies show that young children who have a strong sense of social grounding are better able to withstand challenging experiences, such as bullying or the breakup of their parents’ marriage. Finding out more about who you are and where you come from can provide you with a sense of control over your life when things might otherwise seem hopeless.
3. Learning About the Resilience of Our Ancestors Can Help Us Face Our Own Challenges
Stories of triumph over adversity can be found in every generation. These stories of survival through war, overcoming racial and religious persecution, and other hardships can be a source of comfort and inspiration as you face your own challenges. When you talk to your loved one about the defining events in their lives, be sure to delve beyond the basic names, dates, and places by asking them what they learned from the event or how it impacted the course of their life.