Involved grandparents are of huge benefit to children's mental health, study finds
"They are life's dessert" my own dad always says about his five young grandchildren.
And much as himself and my mum pretty much live for their grandkids at this stage, and adore every moment they get to spend with them, my children and my three nieces are at least equally obsessed with their grandparents – and then some.
And as it turns out, this bond between grandparents and grandchildren could be all sorts of important, especially to children.
"Grandparents should be brought back into children's lives to help tackle a surge in youth anxiety and mental ill health, Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, recently explained to the BBC.
Rantzen said children's wellbeing was being harmed by the "fragmentation of the family" and a lack of nearby supportive relatives, and stated children should be given an automatic legal right to see their grandparents, as they are in France. Especially, she explained, as many parents were too busy to meet children's emotional needs, she added.
Rantzen made the comments as children's charity NSPCC, which runs youth counselling service Childline, released figures showing the demand for support with anxiety had doubled over the past two years.
The telephone helpline service originally focused on offering support to children fearing for their safety but is now taking up a bigger role in helping a growing number of children with mental health issues.
Rantzen explained: "When I was a kid, I had extended family around me. The things that I couldn't talk about with my parents, I could speak to my extended family about. We had family meals together - there was a social context in which maybe somebody would notice that you weren't feeling tremendously happy."
"Families need to ask themselves if there's enough emotional support on offer for young people. People are busy all day - they sometimes have two or maybe three jobs going, or are they going where the work is, or going away to work from where the family is. In all kinds of ways, the nuclear family is becoming very isolated.
"Nowadays, the extended family is scattered and I just think it's no longer a priority to keep up with it.
"The role of grandparents - that supportive role - can help children realise that things maybe aren't so bad.
A right to grandparents
Rantzen stated: "We need to actually give grandchildren the right to a relationship with their grandparents, as they do in France."
The Childline founder highlighted how grandparents of children caught up in battles over family separations in the UK often had to go to court to regain access to their grandchildren.
In countries such as France, grandparents had an automatic right to their see grandchildren, she said, adding that should be adopted in the UK.