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Living with the grandparents: changing times

In Spain grandparents over the age of 65 take care of their grandchildren

Data from Spain’s Health Ministry show that 70% of grandparents over the age of 65 take care of their grandchildren and that 49% do so on a daily basis (2013 data), for a period of between five and six hours.

There are many contributing factors for this mixed generational living, which is an increasing feature of our times.

Lifestyle changes: From the ’70’s onwards, Spanish society embraced consumerism and it became necessary for women to work outside the home to contribute to the household finances. Increased freedom for women,together with divorce becoming legal, also helped to break the conservative family structure where women stayed and looked after the home and children. Faced with this situation, grandparents took on a crucial role to free up women to exercise their right to single parenthood or to pursue a career instead of being a mother.

Using or abusing grandparents: grandparents have graduallly ceased to become those close relatives who spend the odd afternoon or the holidays at home and have become “parallel parents”, on practically a daily basis. The economic crisis has not made it easy for many families to maintain their independence: many have had to return to the family home after losing their jobs and their mortgaged houses.

Peaceful co-existence is always enriching, but is not always easy. Living harmoniously with the older generation depends on several factors such as the health of the elderly, their level of self-reliance, as well as the family finances.

When the older person has to leave their own home t olive in the house of their children and grandchildren, it can lead to lots of tension: Loss of independence, feelings of guilt, tension between couples,possessiveness and jealousy of bonds between grandparents and children.

When grandparents are physically fit , they can move around, following the exhausting routine of grandchildrens’ afterschool activities, helping them with their homework and understanding the new techonology so prevalent in the lives of children and adolescents.

In this case the older generation may feel exhausted as they lose their last vestiges of energy after a lifetime of toil.

The solution is not simple, but  depending on the capacity of all the various family members and their level of involvement in the day to day, things can work out for better or for worse. Everyone needs to do their bit, including children with their grandparents, and everyone needs their moments of reward and relaxation. If this balance isn’t respected, then there will be tension which could result in the whole family breaking up.

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