families, role of grandparents

Family Ties

Family Ties

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

As I write this issue of Health By Design Rosalie and I are in the midst of a life-changing event. After spending twenty-six years in Edmond, Oklahoma (twenty-four in the same house) we are moving across the state to Sapulpa, a community just slightly southeast of Tulsa.

Having spent the vast majority of our adult lives in the Edmond/Oklahoma City area the decision to move was not an easy one. It meant leaving friends, established clients. It entailed sorting through our accumulated possessions and deciding which to move with us, which to throw away, and which to give to others. Anyone who has undertaken a cross-country move knows the process intimately.

So why did we voluntarily choose to subject ourselves to the physical and emotional stress of a major move? In a word, family. We came to the conclusion that while our children’s place of residence was dictated by job availability ours was not. Having the ability to move, we reasoned it would be well to be close to at least one grandchild.

I am confident that we are doing the right thing, not simply from a social perspective, but from a wellness perspective as well. My goal is to die young as late in life as possible and to help others do the same.

I understand that there is a placidity associated with “retirement communities” that some find attractive. I can understand why some people prefer to surround themselves with other “mature” adults. I am not ready to go there, however.

I know of no better tonic to maintain a youthful spirit than regular exposure to the exuberance of a child. I also know that tonics work better when taken on a daily basis rather than once or twice a month.

Living in close proximity to us will also benefit our son-in-law and daughter. While childrearing can be a source of joy and satisfaction it can also be physically and emotionally draining. They will find it much easier to take a “night out” or get away for a weekend to relax and recharge without the constant demands of caring for a toddler.

Abbie herself will benefit as well. Grandparents traditionally play a significant role in the development of children. As providers of unconditional love and approval grandparents support the development of confidence and self-assurance. One grandparent expressed it this way: “Our belief in our grandchildren fosters their belief in themselves.”

Grandparents serve as additional role models, helping parents instill family values in the younger generation. As the child grows, grandparents provide a sense of connectedness. They are family historians relating the story of how the family came to be at this place at this time. In doing so they help the child develop his or her personal identity.

Perhaps most importantly a grandparent is a friend. He or she has the luxury of being one step removed from the level of discipline required of a parent and hence a more neutral party. This makes a grandmother or grandfather a “safe” confidant, something that children discover very early in life. Rosalie received a call from five-year-old Victoria a few months ago. “Grandma,” she began, “I had a really bad day at pre-school. We need to talk!”

Thus it is that the temporary stresses of a major move pale when I consider the many ways in which our new location close to our children and grandchild will ease our stress and anxiety moving forward. I am confident that the move will help us age more slowly and gracefully and help us stay forever young.

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