You can think of childhood as not unlike slow cooking, with a fully formed adult at the end of the process.

And most caring parents would want their children to grow up as adults who are happy, responsible, loving, resilient and socially well adjusted.

However, childhood is a complex business with its ages and stages and most adults, with even the happiest of childhoods, would remember difficulties they encountered along the way.

Children face many pressures, some good, some not, some self inflicted, others coming from elsewhere.

While all this is going on their parents are dealing with their own pressures: work, money, relationship issues and time, just to name a few. So where do grandparents fit into all this? Do they matter? What can be learned from them?

I have five grandchildren aged from three to ten, so I have had ten years experience as a grandfather. Recently the five have been joined by a dear nine year old girl, the daughter of my son’s new partner. Like the other five, she calls me Johnpa.

The last ten years have been, with the exception of the death of my dear wife, among the happiest of my life and much of that sense of happiness has come from being with my grandchildren and watching them grow. And I believe my grandchildren have had lots of happy times with me. So I think grandparents matter a lot. Here’s why:


Of course, just like parents, grandparents have their problems and pressures. But, being older and having seen and experienced a lot more including the growth of their own children, grandparents have a different and more relaxed perspective.

Also, theirs is not the job of pushing a child to succeed at something, to make the sport team, to wear their hair a different way or to come first in the class or in a race. Their relationship with their grandchildren can be much more like that of an older friend. They are able to accept and relate to their grandchildren just the way they are, not in some way they would like them to be.

So from grandparents children can learn what it is to be accepted for who they are.

What really matters

Grandparents are mostly at an age at which they have had their share of ups and downs and have been “bashed around” a bit, perhaps more than a bit.

They have learned the things that really matter like love, friendship, loyalty, honesty and faithfulness. They should have learned that, whilst money is important, it is not an end in itself and that a person is to be judged by their qualities as a person, not by the amount of money or quality of possessions they have.

So from grandparents children can learn about old fashioned values.

Helping others

Often, because they are not as young as they once were, grandparents require some physical assistance and may turn to their grandchildren for some help.

In turn, the grandchildren may realise that they can be of help to someone who has been unfailingly kind and helpful to them. This is an invaluable lesson for any grandchild.

What’s the hurry?

In most if not all cases, grandparents are people who have come to enjoy “life in the slow lane”.

They have reached a stage in their life at which working long hours, making more money and acquiring more possessions is no longer necessary.

They now have the time to enjoy and appreciate the good things in their life, including their grandchildren.

How lucky a grandchild is to have the undivided attention of a person who not only has time for them, but also loves them unreservedly. They can learn what it is like to have their own time in the slow lane.

Being there

We live at a time when the parents of so many children (whether in single parent homes or the more traditional two parent homes) all go out to work. How good and how important it is in these circumstances for the children to have someone to “be there” for them.

Of course, that someone does not have to be a grandparent and this is only one example of the role that a grandparent can play in the life of their grandchildren.

The important lesson for the child is that of having someone to rely and depend on, someone who knows them intimately, someone who loves and cares for them.

Grandparents are an invaluable source of wisdom and love and the lessons their grandchildren can learn from them will assist the children to grow into wonderful adults and, ultimately, wonderful grandparents.

My dear friend told me the other day that her six year old granddaughter had asked her: “When are we going to have another Grandma day, Grandma?” I think that says it all.

John Westlake is the author of the new children’s picture book, Little Rhymes for Little People ($19.99) available from good book stores and online here.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • Grandparents can be very wise and loving and helpful.


  • I didn’t get to meet or know my grandparents. My kids grew up close to my mother in law. They absolutely loved her to bits and the feeling was mutual. She’s been gone 10 years now :,( My sons first baby is due next year. He’s naming him Riley in memory of his beloved nan. Such a sweet boy <3


  • Great article thanks for sharing


  • My parents who are obviously grandparents to my children have been a great help and example to out kids.


  • Thank you for sharing your story.
    My 2 year old adores her nana ( my Mum) who occasional minds my daughter for a few hours.
    My daughter loves the time she spends with her nana and nana enjoys it just as much. They make each other laugh and have all sorts of fun.


  • My in laws need to read this haha


  • John, thankyou for your article. Your words are very true. Today, our children enjoyed a surprise visit from my parents and they lapped up their every story about their school day and what’s important in their eyes. Our kids are also lucky enough to still have two great-grandmothers, whom they see fairly regularly, and share a special bond with.


  • So true my grandparents were amazing role modules to me and my parents are just as important to my kids.


  • It’s lucky to be able to learn from grandparents.


  • My Mum (my son’s Nan) at 78 years of age has the most incredible patience with my son, and has done since he was born. She would walk him while he screamed all day, sing silly songs to him, and let him ride her like a horse. Whilst they’ve both grown up, I have watched the most beautiful and incredible relationship between them both. As a 13 year old boy, my son still hugs his Nan hello and goodbye, and she picks him up from school once a week so they can still have time together. And he’s still okay with that at the moment … not embarrassed by Nan! It’s just wonderful.


  • sounds awesome and looks great


  • Wow – such a great read! Grandparents are in the enviable situation where they have ‘been there, done that’ and know what works, what doesn’t and how important it is to ‘stop and smell the roses’.


  • With people leaving parenthood to later years in their lives, kids don’t always have grandparents around to grow up with. Which is unfortunate because I loved spending time with the grandparents as a kid.


  • When my now late Mum was a Grandma she used to say there was spoiling and spoiling.
    One of her points was give them treats of love and kindness but don’t give too many treats such as lollies, cakes etc. and anything similar that is only OK in moderation. The other one was you can lots of fun …but they had to learn that bad behaviour wasn’t acceptable. She never allowed them to do things that she knew the parents didn’t allow. There were a couple of things they weren’t allowed to do at her place and she explained the reasons to them. One thing was climbing up the verandah posts. Had they fallen they would have gone down on cement or even hit the step at an angle as well. They also weren’t allowed to walk along the uneven topped rock wall that bordered the concrete driveway and sloped down onto the lawn. They were very slippery when wet and the rock surface was fairly rough. One of them decided it was fun to slam a door that had glass in it and didn’t understand the danger if the glass broke. Grandma knew that she wasn’t allowed to slam doors so she told her not toslam any doors and explained the reason why then repeated it when she persisted. When grandma took her home one of the first things she did was go to her room and slam the door. Missy was punished so Grandma was pleased she had attempted to stop her earlier. I have one who tells me I “never let her do anything”. I don’t let her do what I know her parents and other grandparents allow either. She knows I have certain rules here too and her parents have told her she does as she is told when at other peoples’ places. e,g, I live in a unit with a very short, narrow front area with no fence. Neither of the children are allowed out there without an adult. Luckily the younger one can’t reach the lock on the security screen door yet.


  • I love this. Having had my daughter relatively late in life, I do try to ensure that she spends a good amount of time with all grandparents each week. The grandparents love it and of course, she loves the attention!


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