Benefits to Children

 

Research shows children need four to six involved, caring adults in their lives to fully develop emotionally and socially. The problem today is that children often get too much peer socialization, too much mediated contact through computers and texting, and not enough one-on-one, personal time with mature adults.

The benefits to children of a close, long-term connection with older adults include:

  • Through grandparents, children have a better sense of who they are and where they’ve come from. They have roots, a history, and a sense of continuity and perspective.

  • Intergenerational bonds need not be traditional or biological. Older adult mentors can make a significant difference in a child’s life. The involvement of a reliable, caring adult helps children develop life skills, and builds self-esteem and confidence. One study showed that when a child is mentored by an adult, they are: 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 52% less likely to skip school.

  • In general, children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure), and can even have better grades in school.

  • Children feel special. Especially with grandparents, children are “spoiled” a little. Research tells us that, in moderation, this can be a good thing. Children know that being with their grandparents is special. They don’t expect the rest of the world to treat them the way their grandparents do, so it’s really not “spoiling.” They experience an unconditional type of love that’s not easily found elsewhere.

  • Children can get undivided time and attention from an older adult that tired, busy parents often can’t give them.

  • An older adult can give children someone safe to talk with and confide in. While children may want to be different from their parents, they often don’t mind being like their grandparents or other older adults. This gives elders a lot of power and ability to influence a troubled or confused child.

  • Through sharing in an older adult’s interests, skills, and hobbies, children are introduced to new activities and ideas. Through their life experience, older adults can often bring with them a tremendous amount of patience. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes children pick up from elders tend to stick with them through life more than those picked up from other sources.

  • By getting to know “real, live old people” children look beyond the ageist stereotypes. They become more comfortable with aging – which is really something we all do from the moment we’re born. Children are also encouraged to look toward the whole of their lives. They have many models for adulthood, but far fewer for older adulthood. When they can see the whole of their lives, they are more motivated and see greater relevance between what they’re learning in school and their future. Research shows that “planful competence” – the ability to understand the life course and work toward goals – is key to student success in school and in life.

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