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Are you a grandparent or is that potentially in your future? According to The Economist, grandparents comprise 20% of the world’s population. And it’s estimated that about half are long distance grandparents who do not live in close proximity to their grandchildren. (And if you’re not a long distance grandparent today, stay tuned – you could be someday). According to a study by AARP, while half of today’s grandparents are long distance grandparents, it’s on the rise. Kerry Byrne, PhD, founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, is on a mission to provide grandparents with the tools to build strong and meaningful relationships with their grandchildren.
Kerry Byrne joins us from Toronto.
Kerry Byrne, PhD, has studied aging and care for 25 years. She is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission driven business helping grandparents build strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance.
From universities to businesses and not-for-profits to policy think tanks, Kerry’s approach to any challenge is solution – focused and strengths-based. That’s why she focuses on practical, but meaningful ways to build bonds with your grandchildren.
As a mum to 2, with grandparents living at a distance, she believes children need their grandparents, now more than ever – no matter the distance between.
You can find her on any given day working hard to make sure grandparents and grandchildren from all over the world are connecting in meaningful and fun ways.
For More on Kerry Byrne, PhD
Mentioned in This Podcast Episode
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On the Age of the Grandparent
“I think people are surprised by a couple of things. One is the sheer number of grandparents that we have. So The Economist just published a great article called The Age of the Grandparent has Arrived, and they had some fancy demographics. Look at how many grandparents we have in worldwide: there are 1.5 billion grandparents. There are over 70 million grandparents in America alone. I think the other stat that is very surprising to people is the age at which someone usually becomes a grandparent, because that’s 50 for women, a touch older for men, but not much more. And the third one I would say is that around by the time someone hits 75, almost 90% of people are a grandparent. So this is a huge burgeoning group, with quite a long period of time to contribute and to be intentional in their grandparenting.”
“And I think sticking to it is really important and being willing to try new things and be silly and playful. Play really builds trust. That’s how we build relationships with grandchildren of all ages. So whether they are 2 or 22, don’t be afraid to do something that’s just a little bit silly to surprise and delight them in that connection. Send them a funny face selfie. A 22 year old grandchild will think that’s really goofy, and a teenage grandchild might roll their eyes at that, but that’s a connection point and that’s how we connect with people, really all of our relationships are very much based in play.”
On Being a Grand Encouragement Officer
“Grandparents are the GEOs of their family – and this is a Grand Encouragement Officer. We see this in the research that grandchildren who report emotionally close relationships, to their grandparents also report high levels of affectionate communication. The researchers call it affectionate communication. I call it a word hug or being a GEO. So letting your grandchildren know that you love them, you miss them, you are proud of them, that they’re special to you and that you enjoy spending time with them. Those are the key things to remember to always say. And so just having a little chat with yourself on the way to go see your grandchildren and just to remember to tell them that you are proud of your granddaughter because she learned to walk. What a what an extraordinary thing to do and that you’re just so proud of that achievement. But you can imagine that this applies to someone who’s 19 going off to college like Wow, you’re almost through your first year of college! And that was such a big thing to do to move away from home. Grandparents can really be the encouragers. Be the GEOs of the family.”
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About Your Podcast Host
Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career. He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking.