Whether you call them grandma, grandpa, granny or grandad, grandparents play a huge role in your child’s life.

Whether you call them grandma, grandpa, granny or grandad, grandparents play a huge role in your child’s life.

“As soon as our 3-year-old twins, William and Mathis, see their grandparents, they both run to them, shouting, ‘Grandma! Grandpa!’ They pull out all their latest crafts to show them and want lots of hugs and games. They don’t let up for an instant, even during meals. One or the other of the boys is always blurting out something like: ‘Wait for me grandpa, so we can take a bite at the same time!’ The twins talk about their grandparents constantly,” says their mom, Geneviève. “When grandma and grandpa are there, the kids don’t want to let them leave!”

Grandparents have a lot to offer their grandchildren, starting with unconditional love. As far as grandparents are concerned, their grandchildren are the best and the nicest. “Parents want their children to do certain things a certain way, while grandparents tend to have fewer expectations,” says psychologist Nathalie Parent, author of the book Pour grands-parents seulement! (For grandparents only!). And their little darlings return that love in spades. “I’m very close to my grandsons,” says France Daoust, grandmother to the twins and their 1-year-old brother, Loïc. “They’ve changed my life.”

In addition to being a great source of affection, your parents can give your children attention and foster the feeling that they’re unique and important. Since their granddaughter Julia turned 3, Jocelyne and Jean Dubé spend one of their 2 weeks of summer vacation with her. The little girl, now 7, can’t wait for this holiday since she knows that she’ll have her grandparents all to herself. “The entire week is spent just playing with her and taking care of her,” says her grandmother. The Dubés would like to continue this tradition with Julia’s younger brother, Liam, now 3 years old. “I think it’s important for each of my grandchildren to have turns receiving some exclusive attention from me,” says Jocelyne.

“I couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. It’s almost better than being a mother, since we get to do all the fun stuff with them.”
-Diane Bernard

Grandparents have a certain luxury parents don’t: they don’t need to take care of the everyday responsibilities or the discipline. When they see your children, they have all the time in the world to play and enjoy themselves. “When I go to my daughter’s house, time stands still,” says France. “I’m in my own little bubble with my grandchildren.” The time spent between grandparents and grandchildren is usually filled with pleasure, which is what makes it so special. “They aren’t difficult with us because we give them lots of attention,” notes Diane Bernard, grandmother to 4-year-old Xavier and 2-year-old Tristan.

For Francine Ferland, author of the book Grands-parents d’aujourd’hui, Plaisirs et pièges, (Today’s grandparent: the joys and the pitfalls), attention is the greatest gift a grandparent can give. “It’s not the material things that children remember, but the special moments spent with their grandparent. Children love it when someone listens to them talk about their adventures and plays with them. They feel interesting and important, and that boosts their self-esteem.” This is definitely the case for Xavier, who calls his grandmother Diane several times a week to tell her about his day. “To make sure he still has my attention, he’ll repeat: ‘Xavier’s still talking, Xavier isn’t finished, yet,’” says Diane tenderly.

Staying close despite the distance
Even if grandparents live far away, they can still stay close. Free video-conferencing software, such as Skype, for example, lets you talk and see each other at the same time. Xavier and Tristan’s grandparents, who spend the winter abroad, use it regularly to talk to their grandsons and see their little faces live at least twice a week while they’re away. If your child is still very young, conversation may be difficult, but you could read or tell a story, or sing nursery rhymes together. If Skype isn’t an option, you could have your child look at a picture of her grandparents when she’s on the phone with them to make it more real for her.
Grandma and grandpa can also occasionally send a card, letter, picture or book by mail to their grandchild. Children love getting mail! In exchange, your child can mail back some drawings. When she’s older, she could even visit them on vacation. Of course, nothing can replace real hugs and kisses, which is why the best strategy is for grandparents and parents to take turns visiting each other.