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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Celebrating The Special Role of Grandparents & Grand Friends

This post is a duplication of our newsletter, The Weekly Reset, where we review a key theme each week. In the spotlight this week: Celebrating the special role of grandparents and grand friends. What is your favourite memory of your grandparents and how are you planning on passing that memory onto your grandkids?

A note from Johann

Before I became a grandparent, my idea of the role was to one of spoiling the kids with treats and eschewing much of the rules and disciplines set out by their parents – my children! Isn’t that the trade-off? Not having to have the same level of responsibility as during my child-rearing phase?

I have three delightful grandchildren and I’m fortunate that they live close by and that my wife and I are involved and interested grandparents. I compare my experience with that of my parents – my children’s grandparents – and I see some differences. For one, my generation is already experiencing greater longevity, and the fact is that I will be an active grandparent for much longer than my parents were.

Our grandchildren are more likely to have two working parents as opposed to our children’s generation. In addition, I sense there is a different level of input in parenting from both parties compared to past generations. This has a knock on effect for our level of involvement too. I think I know a great deal more about my grandkids’ academic lives than my parents did about their grandkids.

We have unique challenges in trying to forge a connection with our grandkids. In our tech driven society, it’s easy the feel like we have to compete with the next app, game or social platform. Yet the one of the best ways to connect with our grandkids is by telling them stories. Grandchildren love to hear how their own parents were naughty and how the practical jokes were passed down or heroics played out. I know that naughty jokes always land a laugh with my grandkids and who am I to deny them this humour?!

Of course, we don’t all live in close proximity to our grandkids and need to use other methods of contact like Zoom or FaceTime. I’ve seen grandparents load videos of them reading bedtime stories onto YouTube to connect with the families on other continents. And more and more older adults are signing up as foster grandparents to offer love and support to kids without extended families. This is a mutually beneficial solution and one much needed in society.

Whatever the nature of your contact with grandchildren, we know very well that the bond is totally precious for us as grandparents and a great pleasure for the grandchildren too.


Weekly Spotlight

Our top 3 article picks this week:

Grandparents Who Babysit A Grandchild Live Longer, Study Finds

Grandparents who babysit are more likely to survive the next 20 years.

Grandparents walking on the beach playfully with their grandchild

Our take:
Being an active grandparent has some reciprocal benefits. Not only do your children have the benefit of a built in baby sitter who has their kids best interest at heart, in turn you have the benefit of staying active and engaged which leads to greater longevity! This article published in Considerable shares some of the science behind this finding.

Article excerpt:
Looking for an extra incentive to spend some quality time with your grandchildren? Try telling their parents it could extend your life.

A growing body of research supports the idea that grandparents who babysit a grandchild live longer, so parents with young kids can take heart that their parents and their kids are getting benefits from babysitting time together.

The BASE study was comprised of interviews and medical tests done in two-year intervals, and included a caregiving section in which respondents described the frequency with which they cared for a grandchild without the parents’ presence.

An important note: The study focused on grandparents who simply provided periodic babysitting, not primary caregiving for their grandchildren.

Click here to read the whole article on

The New Age of Grandparenting

Compared to previous generations, today’s elders are more open-minded and more involved with their grandkids.

A grandfather and his grandson

Our take:
As aging changes so do all the things that go with it, including our roles as grandparents or ‘grand friends’. Good Housekeeping conducted a survey on grand parenting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Article excerpt:
Last December, in one of her first interactions with her newborn grandson, Patty cradled him close, inhaling his sweet smell and marveling at his tiny perfection. The baby, born a few days earlier during a blizzard, was now safely home in suburban New York. Gently, Patty lay her grandson in his crib on his stomach.

“Mom, what are you doing?” her daughter cried, scooping up the baby. “Don’t put him down like that — he’ll smother!

Patty bit her lip. (She also asked to hold her last name, for fear of offending her daughter.) Welcome to today’s world of grandparenting. The Baby Boomers and Gen Xers navigating their roles as family elders face a dramatically different parenting world than the one in which they raised their own kids.

It’s a good time to take a deep dive into modern grandparenting. As average lifespans increase, grandparents will be in their grandkids’ lives for longer than ever before. And grandparents say they feel younger and more vibrant than their grandparents before them, meaning their role in their grandkids’ lives is ever-evolving.

Click here to read the article on

Surrogate Grandparents – Making Multi-Generational Friends

A symbolism of generations with a grandmothers hands holding a younger family members hands

Our take:
Not everyone can or will be grandparents, yet there are ways to experience the joys of this role. There are various organisations around the world that connect surrogate or foster grandparents to children who don’t have grandparents of their own. There are many benefits to this arrangement where at risk youth might benefit from having a wiser role model and older adult benefit from social connection and an opportunity to provide a needed service.

Article excerpt:
In this podcast, we discuss the benefits of having grandchildren and how to reap some of those benefits even if you don’t have your own grandkids. One way to do that is surrogate grandparenting and just making friends with younger generations.

Click here to read the full podcast transcript on Grannies Go Digital

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Other highlights for the week:

Most Popular Daily Thought

I miss him still today: his long, whiskery eyebrows, his huge hands and hugs, his warmth, his prayers, his stories, but above all his shining example of how to live and how to die. – Bear Grylls

The role of grandparent is a unique one. We share a bond with the younger generation that is different from parents and can be very influential in their lives. This influence can have a lasting effect which moulds and shapes their values, their memories, their ability to see life through the eyes and experiences of others. We form a link from our generation to those that came before and those that will follow.

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Quote by Bear Grylls with a image of a granddad and a grandson

Weekly Questions

Last week’s questions and top responses:

What is your favourite memory of your grandparents?

• Their patience, time and life lessons they taught me.
• My grandmother making me cookies every day that I visited and letting me eat them for breakfast.
• Bent double gardening with a scarf protecting her white hair.
• Popcorn and Jerry Lewis movies.
• The arts and crafts that they taught me.
• Playing cards with my grandma on the floor in front of a circular fan.
• Cooking and baking together.
• I am so thankful that I got to know them.
• Their unconditional love.

What would you like your grandchildren to know?

• That even though they live far away, I think of them with love every day.
• They are adored.
• How much they are loved.
• That they are my favourite people in the whole world.
• The value of living a faith based life. The value of honesty, integrity, compassion for people and the environment. Sound ethics. That hard work NEVER killed anybody. Plan well for your retirement.
• Yoga.
• To have good creative hobbies.

This week’s poll question:

How would you like to spend a pre-retirement gap year?

Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group

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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.