Grandchildren reduce your levels of stress (yes, really!)
By Dr. Roger Landry
When I became a grandfather more than a decade ago, I knew that it would be a wonderful experience. What I didn’t expect was experiencing the profound, mystical circle of life.
Even more surprises came as my first grandchild began to notice me, then recognize who I was, then communicate, then play, and then befriend me. It made the rewards of career and accomplishment pale in comparison. It validated my very existence, my role as a grandfather in this magnificent journey of life being lived and realized at its highest potential.
So how does being a grandparent reduce our stress?
With our grandchildren, we can allow for a mix of unbridled optimism and experiential skepticism; of boundless energy and growing fatigue; of curiosity and experience; of innocence and wisdom. The result of this recipe is not always predictable, but it is healthy, satisfying, and stress reducing, because when we are with children and not burdened with the duties and responsibilities of parenting, we are less likely to be anywhere else. Not worrying about the world, or our aches and pains, or our finances, or our life expectancy. We are more likely to be in the moment with grandchildren and free from our self-induced stressors.
Are grandchildren essential to aging successfully?
Dr. William Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, an organization that establishes communities in which older adults are in close and continuous contact with plants, animals, and children, found that ongoing interaction between elders and young children helps build resilience and avoid depression. In retirement communities where the Eden Alternative has been adopted, they report a reduction in medication use and lower mortality rates for the elders.
So enjoy your grandchildren! And if you can’t be around your grandchildren often, here are 5 ways to have children in your life on a frequent basis:
- Join a Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
- Volunteer to become a mentor, storyteller, or aide at a school or a library.
- Volunteer at a local hospital’s children’s ward.
- Teach a skill that could benefit children. Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers, the YMCA and TWCA, church groups, and summer camps are hungry for instructors.
- Sign up with a babysitting service.
Dr. Roger Landryis the author of Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging. Visit www.livelongdieshort.com to learn more about his research and ways to live a healthier lifestyle well into your grandparenting years.