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Our beloved grandparents, they’re always there if we need them. Whether it’s for a good cuppa, advice, and now more than ever…childcare. In fact, 65% percent of grandparents provide some form of childcare. In modern Britain, grandparents play a major role in the family. Most of us will be a grandparent for a third of our lifespan, and as dual-worker households are increasing, we’ve become progressively dependent on our grandparents. Even saving us over a grand in childcare costs in the process. Really they should be called ‘Super Grandparents’.

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What Makes Grandparents Great?

Family networks are changing massively, and grandparents are a key part. A lot of parents would be out of pocket or simply wouldn’t even be able to work if it wasn’t for our grandparents. An Ageas Survey estimates that parents save £1,786 in childcare costs because of grandparents minding children. That’s a whopping £16.1 billion for the whole U.K. This is data based on just grandparents looking after one child. Grandparents looking after more children could be saving families even more. As well as babysitting themselves 23% of grandparents contribute financially to babysitters so everyone can have a break.

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Based on the median grandparent childcare per week (11.3 hours), parents in the South East can save £3,204 a year in childcare costs. And a huge £4,031 a year in London.

But why do grandparents feel compelled to look after their grandchildren? A survey found that 82% of grandparents simply enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. 44% did it because their own children had a job that prevented them from childcare duties. Amazingly, over half of the grandparents in the study expected nothing back from their children. The Department of Education announced in 2017 that 19% of parents favoured informal childcare such as grandparents over nurseries because of cost. But, many choose Grandparents because of trust and love. Although most parents using informal childcare have a household income of £30,000 - £44,999. It’s those with the highest income (£45,000+) who are the second most likely to use it.

Impact on Health

Researchers have found that 84% of grandparents felt that looking after their grandchildren had a very positive impact on their life. And their feelings are backed up by science. The University of Virginia uncovered grandparents who frequently hugged their grandkids were less stressed and had increased levels of the ‘love hormone’ – oxytocin. Grandparents who look after their treasured grandchildren are more likely to report better health than those who do not. Even looking after grandchildren a few hours a day has a major impact. Studies have concluded that only 23% of European grandparents that look after children non-intensively report poor health. Whereas, 37.3% of grandparents who do not care for grandkids at all, attest to bad health.

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This benefit can be seen in mental wellbeing too. Grandparents looking after grandchildren are 8% less likely to report depressive symptoms. It seems like grandchildren feel the same way. A study in Boston found that close bonds between grandparent and grandchild can reduce depressive symptoms for both.

Invaluable Support

Remember all those stories your grandparents used to tell about the war and how ‘everything was better in my day’? As much as you wanted to play, you sat and listened. All those times you were a good grandchild may have paid off. These tales could have helped shaped you into the person you are today. Scientists believe that grandparents’ anecdotes about the past and family history form our self-identity and build our self-esteem.

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Grandparents aren’t just good for stories. They play a key role in a child’s development in many other ways. In one survey over 40% of parents were reliant on grandparents for activities and education such as math, cooking and sewing. Another study found nearly half of grandparents helped with homework and a huge 86% read with their grandchildren.

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