There comes a time in life when the allure of living in a new location beckons us. Whether you’ve been in the same home since your own kids were little, or you relocated more recently after downsizing, looking for warmer weather – change can be an exciting time with much to look forward to. More and more, grandparents are looking to relocate next to grandchildren…and we think it’s a wonderful idea for a variety of reasons.
BEING CLOSE BENEFITS THEM…AND YOU
There are loads of benefits to being a CBG — a “close by grand.” You get to be involved in your grands’ lives on a much more regular basis. You’re on hand to teach them important life lessons, share in new family memories and pass down stories from their past. You can cheer them on in sports or their other endeavors and watch them grow up in person.
Living close gives you the ability to become part of a child’s built-in support system. There’s the opportunity, where you’re able and willing to do so, to help their parents juggle the demands of careers and child-rearing. Your presence and interactions can be a stabilizing force, helping them make sense of scary times and changing family dynamics. Tough times happen, as much as we don’t want them to, and being surrounded by a grandparent’s love can be critical in helping them stay grounded if a parent loses a job or makes the difficult decision to separate or divorce.
You also are able to set them up to succeed by breaking down stereotypes and showing them that older people are active, wise, funny and fun. They’ll grow up learning to be less ageist and more empathetic. In a society that places a premium on youth and youthful appearances, that can go a long way.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Research from Oxford University has shown that a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children and helps protect both groups against depression. And the benefits of being a CBG aren’t just limited to when your grands are little. Additional research from Oxford showed that close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren continue to play a positive role long into grandchildren’s adulthood. Plus, studies show the effect is mutual: grandchildren can benefit their grandparents in a similar way.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before you pull up stakes, have an open and candid conversation with your children and see how they’d feel about having you move close by. Would they welcome you and the added support? Do they seem receptive to the idea and enthusiastic about you being a CBG? Or are they hesitant, concerned about you hovering or not respecting their privacy? Or perhaps undermining their parenting style or rules?
If you have hobbies and interests you plan to pursue, make those known. Your adult children may be concerned you’ll have no outside life of your own and be overly dependent on them. Be sure to set the record straight.
Discuss their future plans. Are they apt to move for a new job opportunity or other reason? How would they feel if you followed them? How would you feel about that?
SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
It’s important that you and your kids don’t have different expectations about what life will be like once you’re living nearby. If they’re expecting free on-demand babysitting or to “dump and run” and leave the kids with you on weekends and you’re not up for that, say so. The last thing either of you need is end up feeling resentful — that defeats the whole purpose of you moving nearby. Talk about what you both want and don’t want.
Be sure to discuss the sticky subject of money, too. Will they expect you to pick up the tab anytime you order in or go out to eat? Make it clear that although you’d love to treat them here and there, you have a budget you need to bear in mind.
A TEST MAY BE BEST
Before you commit or make a rash decision, try a test run. Stay nearby for a few weeks or a few months and see how you like the area and the community. See how the dynamics feel with you and your family. If staying with them isn’t tenable, find a short-term rental or a deal at a local hotel that offers suites with cooking amenities. You’ll discover whether making the move is the right move for you.
Family is such a valuable and important part of life, especially during turbulent times like a pandemic. Family members of all ages benefit when learning to live together, be patient and love and respect each other’s differences. Children grow up stronger for the experience, and grandparents feel loved, valued and needed. With careful planning and lots of conversation, it can be a win-win for the right situation.