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How can grandparents help children's wellbeing?

How can grandparents help children's wellbeing?

Dr Tamara Scully, a chartered clinical psychologist who works with children, young people and adults, shares how grandparents can help children's wellbeing

How did you become an expert on families, including children? 

My passion around children and families comes from my belief that with the right support all children can reach their potential. Working with children is so full of hope. I have spent the past 15 years working in child and adolescent mental health teams in the NHS. 

What are the main mental health challenges facing children? 

This is difficult to answer. Over the past two years there has been an increase in child and adolescent mental health difficulties. In particular, there has been a significant increase in anxiety and eating disorders, both linked to the pandemic. Young people are also reporting a much higher level of loneliness, which may be linked to excessive screen use. 

Grandparent

How do these manifest themselves in their behaviour? 

It’s absolutely normal for young people to move up and down the mental health curve. We get concerned when we notice big changes in their behaviour that don’t pass in a few weeks. For example, grandchildren stop meeting friends, stay in their bedroom or lose interest in things they used to enjoy.   

What role can grandparents play in ensuring their grandchildren’s wellbeing? 

The most important thing grandparents can offer is themselves, just being there, listening and validating. There’s a lovely saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Relationships are the biggest predictors of happiness and success across the lifespan. Strong positive relationships build resilience in our young people. 

Family

What practical things can grandparents do? 

Be present and give their time. They can give their time directly to their grandchild and to their own child. A parent who is allowed time to refuel will show up as a better parent. They can help their grandchildren by being on their team and sitting with them when times are tough. All children benefit from something called relational wealth and this is a grandparent’s most important contribution.   

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