This past weekend, my husband's parents visited from Ohio, which got me thinking about grandparents. My kids are lucky to have four grandparents very involved in their lives (my parents live in Statesville), and it's fun to see their relationships grow, as the grandparents enjoy spending time with these new members of the family and the kids get some one-on-one time with four different people who each have different interests and personalities. The one common denominator among all the relationships is love, and watching that love unfold as a parent (and child) is a wonderful experience. I believe that grandparents have a special relationship with grandkids, in part because they aren't having to be in that parental role that is full of worry and discipline. So what does that mean for grandparents who are taking on the role of caregiver? The numbers are growing, with recent reports saying that about 7 million kids live in a house with at least one grandparent. The reasons for this are varied, but the recession has played a part, as adults are forced to move back home with their parents after losing a job or having hours cut back at work.

Family dynamics are a hard thing to pinpoint. And while having a grandparent play a primary role in raising a child might seem to buck the norm in our society, a couple of generations ago it was much more common to have grandparents very involved in the process of raising children, when families re-located less and everyone lived closer together in the same communities. So while the news might put a slant on the grandparents story that there's something "wrong" with grandparents raising grandchildren, maybe there are a lot of benefits that are being overlooked. In addition to grandparents having financial stability, they also have years of experience.

So whether your kids are part of the growing number living with grandparents, or they're just getting to know grandparents through visits, it's important to help encourage that relationship. I probably should have written this last week, when we celebrated Grandparents Day on Sept. 12. Started in 1978 by Marian McQuade, the holiday is set aside to help parents and educators encourage children to tap into the wisdom and heritage their grandparents can provide.

Some other benefits of bonding with grandparents include helping a child's development and building their self confidence.

To help encourage that relationship, don't be wary of sending your kids for a night or two with Grandma, sans parents. It's a great way to give them some time to be themselves with each other. For tips on helping the visit go smoothly, check out our article "A GRAND Sleepover."

You can also find a lot of resources on, a good site for grandparents to use to find ideas for games to play, recipes to make that kids will enjoy or that you can make together, and other resources.

And maybe next year for Grandparents Day, rather then spending money on a card you can give your parents and in-laws the gift of time with your kids. My daughter spent about an hour rocking on the front porch with my mother-in-law this weekend, while the rest of us were busy inside. When Grandma left, she whispered in my daughter's ear that she enjoyed talking with her, and my little one's eyes lit up with pleasure. It's a scene that will make your heart melt.

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