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West Jordan Journal

Time with grandparents/grandchildren benefits everyone

May 17, 2017 04:04PM ● By Jet Burnham

: Camille Robinson reads to her granddaughter Arley Bezanson. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected] 

Arley Bezanson walks to Copper Canyon Elementary every day, stopping by her grandma’s house for a morning hug.

“I can’t think of a better way to start a day,” said Arley’s grandma, Camille Robinson. “That toothless smile brightens my day, every day.”

Arley and her fellow first-graders know how special grandparents are. They honored theirs in a special program on March 14. Students sang songs, recited poems and read essays about their grandparents.

“We have found this program to be a perfect way for our young students to incorporate one of their core social studies standards, which is to articulate how individual choices affect self, peers and others,” said first-grade teacher Esther Russell. She said her students love talking about their families, especially their grandparents.

“It's a chance to honor them, share stories about them and examine how their choices really have shaped their lives,” Russell said.

Mia Coralic said in her essay, “I have the best grandpa. He puts me first. When I come home, he puts everything aside to make me happy.”

Mia’s family lives with her grandpa, Sakib Bihcic. A grandfather to five, Bihcic does what grandparents do best—he makes time for them and makes them feel important.

He is also improving Mia’s life, according to the Family Studies Center at BYU. Their 2011 study found that children with strong relationships with their grandparents have less anxiety and depression than their peers and show more pro-social behaviors such as kindness and generosity. The study also found grandfathers’ involvement, specifically, boosts their grandchild’s grades, self-esteem, emotional adjustment and quality of friendships.

Sarah Robason, the parent of a first-grader, knows how important grandparents are.

“My grandparents taught me how to work hard. They taught me values. And now my parents teach my kids how to enjoy life—without the technology,” said Robason, whose son, Landon, told the audience how he likes to play board games with his grandparents.

The benefits of the grandparent/grandchild relationship also extend to the grandparents, said Brett McKay, who researched the subject for his blog, The Art of Manliness.

“Grandparents who have the opportunity to be emotionally close to their grandchildren as well as provide them with functional support (transportation, help with chores or finances, etc.) have been shown to have less depression and more robust psychological health than those who do not,” he wrote.

Randy and Gayle Agla agree that being grandparents improves their lives by helping them stay active and involved, which is why they drove up from Utah County to see their grandchild’s program at Copper Canyon.

“You go to ball games and soccer games and school programs—things you probably wouldn’t do if you didn’t have grandkids,” said Randy Agla. His wife, Gayle, said they are both recently retired and have more time for their 19 grandkids.

“It’s the best way to spend our time,” she said.

“I think we’re busier now than we were when we worked,” Randy Agla said.

Jane Hyte, who came to see her granddaughter Aubrey sing in the program, sees benefits from being a grandma.

“I feel like I’m given energy being around my grandchildren,” said Hyte, who has 24. “It is such a delight to be involved in their lives.”

Once the program was over, the stage curtains parted to reveal a book fair.

“Grandparents are often in the dark as to what kind of material their grandchild likes to read,” said Russell. The PTA held the book fair while grandparents had time (and money) to spend with their grandchildren.

“This is a chance to spoil them a bit, and let them choose a book they may treasure because of who it's from,” said Russell, who has 11 grandchildren.

The program was brief to allow time for students and their grandparents to share cookies and milk and to get their picture taken together.

Having a grandparent involved with their children also benefits the parents. Living in the same apartment complex, Robinson can support Arley’s mom (who is actually her niece.) When her sister passed away, Robinson stepped in as grandma to the five grandchildren left behind. Robinson helps when Arley’s parents need someone to read with her, to comfort her or to play baseball with.

“I play baseball with grandma because Mom and Dad aren’t very good—and they don’t have the energy,” Arley said.