It’s not lost on me how incredibly lucky I am to be an adult with four living grandparents. While I was back in Boston a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to spend some quality time with the people who raised my parents, and I continue to enjoy their company, learn their stories, and get to know them better. In fact, as precious as my childhood memories of my grandparents remain, I prefer our relationship now, one that has a kind of depth it could never have before.
Maintaining strong intergenerational relationships has many benefits. According to the American Sociological Association, “strong grandparent-adult grandchild relationships reduce depression for both,” offering a different kind of support than the parent-child relationship.
The same study revealed that giving and receiving support are equally beneficial to mental health; that is to say that simply offering support is not enough. Both parties should be ready and willing to accept support as well, whether it’s letting a grandchild show you how to work your iPad, or soliciting your grandmother’s advice about a quarrel with a friend.
The Heritage Planning Series from the Professional Educators Benefits Company also stresses this balance of giving and receiving support for a healthy and happy grandparent & adult grandchild relationship. They suggest cooking together, taking walks together, and listening attentively to one another as concrete ways to maintain this bond.
Relationships with grandchildren also have concrete effects on estate planning; it depends on the individual’s goals for the family. It’s common for grandparents to wish to provide for minor grandchildren by creating a trust for educational funds, for example. If someone’s middle-aged children are financially stable, however, they may wish to see their assets passed on to the next generation, the adult grandchildren who are just starting out. The Generation-Skipping Trust, Credit Shelter Trust, and Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust are all designed to reduce estate taxes and avoid probate.
Conversely, some members of the “Sandwich Generation” support their older relatives, and if they were to pass away prematurely, those who need help the most can be overlooked by a DIY estate plan. If an older relative lives with you or depends on you financially, your estate plan should include plans for this person after your death. Work with an attorney you trust to create the plan that’s tailored to your needs and your family’s structure.
Intergenerational bonds have one final great benefit: learning from one another. We often think of the wisdom of the older generation, but the truth is that the transfer of knowledge and experience goes both ways. Because of their grandparents’ hard work and foresight, grandchildren across America have enjoyed better opportunities and quality of life, higher educational opportunities and travels wider than earlier generations might have ever imagined.
Going “home” to Boston for a week gave me the chance to laugh over lunch with my dad’s parents, and we were having such a good time that I missed my train. At my mom’s parents’ house, I sat on the floor in the living room with the dog on my lap, just talking and catching up and being reminded of other, simpler summers when I was child. I’m more grateful than ever for this precious time with my grandparents, which I hope is mutually beneficial.
What are your precious memories of your grandparents or grandchildren? What do they bring to your life that no one else can?