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Babysitting good for grandparents' mental health


(NaturalNews) When a new addition to the family tree makes its way into the world, blossoming for the first time, something special happens. When that newborn comes into the world, tears are shed and new bonds are established instantaneously; what was old is being made new again. The joy and interesting moments that lie ahead bring new meaning to families, across the generations.

It's amazing to think about it: man and woman coming together, marrying DNA to create an interconnected reflection of themselves and their histories. They now hold that future in their arms – a newborn baby staring back at them with innocent eyes. In this rebirth, newly appointed grandparents now stand aside, no longer feeling that all is aging and fading away. They see new life too, and feel that they are a part of it all as their love stretches out into the future, penetrating the darkness and unknown.

Grandchildren boost the mental health of their grandparents

Researchers are now finding out that these bonds between grandparents and grandchildren are important for improving memory, cognition and quality of life into old age. At the onset of a study, published in the journal Menopause in 2014, 186 Australian postmenopausal women (57 to 68 years old) were enrolled in the Women's Healthy Aging Project. They were assessed for memory, cognition and mental health using the Symbol-Digit Modalities Test, California Verbal Learning Test and Tower of London.

The women were observed spending various amounts of time with grandchildren during the study. The women who babysat grandchildren one day a week scored highest in cognition tests at the end of the research period. Grandparents who engaged with grandchildren once weekly also had higher recall performance on the California Verbal Learning Test. The grandparents who spent time with their grandchildren were also at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. Their cognitive performance suffered, however, when they babysat grandchildren five or more days a week, causing the women to score lower on working memory tests.

... As long as healthy boundaries are set between generations

The research study shows the important role grandchildren play in the lives of grandparents, brightening their outlook and enhancing their mental health. The study also shows, however, that the connection can become a burden if healthy boundaries are not set between the generations. When grandmothers feel that they are doing too much, they become mentally exhausted. If grandparents are able to connect in meaningful ways, without overstepping their boundaries or exhausting themselves, then their spirits are lifted and they feel a sense of purpose.

Grandparents may be able to impart important life lessons, sharing stories and experiences from their own lives, but they should be aware that their children are adults raising a family under different circumstances. If a grandparent intervenes too much in the parenting process, they will mentally strain themselves and cause conflict.

By simply being there once a week and giving grandchildren a breath of fresh air, perhaps engaging in a healthy activity like gardening, grandparents feel a sense of purpose as they help new parents balance their work and family commitments. New parents sometimes need "couple time" or "me time," and grandparents may be able to step in to help the parents achieve that balance in their lives. As long as communication between generations stays open and trusting, and healthy boundaries are established, everyone in the family can benefit from the bonds between generations.

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