Australian Grandparents Love Their Expanding Role, But It’s Not Always Easy
With multigenerational households as well as the cost of childcare on the rise in Australia, many grandparents there are providing care for their grandchildren. How do they feel about their expanding role in today’s families?
In its new study, “The Grand Illusion: Being Grandparents in the 21st Century,” Nickelodeon Australia conducted a local quantitative study among 1,000 Australian grandparents aged 55 to 75 with grandchildren under 18. Here are key findings:
Nothing is more important than family to Australian grandparents. The vast majority (88%) say family is their number one priority. They overwhelmingly agree on the importance of providing support and guidance, passing down family and cultural traditions, and teaching life skills to their grandchildren.
They love being grandparents and the large role they play in their grandchildren’s lives. Most say they enjoy being a grandparent (88%) – in fact, 42% say they like being a grandparent more than being a parent. Of those caregiving on a regular basis, 71% say they are playing a larger role than their own grandparents did with them. And as a result, they have a closer relationship with their grandchildren. For 82%, the most important part of their role is doing fun things together.
When they’re with their grandchildren, they’re fully present. Grandparents look after their grandchildren well, with 85% saying they give their full attention when playing together. What they do varies depending upon the children’s ages. Those with younger grandchildren are more likely to go on walks, play games or read. Grandparents tend to talk, watch TV or go to shows or special events with preteen grandchildren. And those with teenage grandchildren opt for outings like the cinema, music events, galleries or the beach.
The world has changed since they raised their kids. Almost four in ten grandparents have had disagreements regarding their grandchildren with their own children – though two-thirds believe that parenting has changed dramatically since they themselves had children. Close to half feel that the expectations on parents are too high today and 57% say kids are under more stress than they should be. More than 60% of grandparents think kids are growing up with fewer rules and less discipline, and more than half feel kids today are too protected. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 65% say that kids today are too spoiled – but over half admit that they spoil their grandchildren themselves.
Being a grandparent has a financial cost for many. A third of all Australian grandparents contribute to the costs of raising their grandchildren. Among those providing daily care for grandchildren, three-quarters contribute financially. Retired grandparents spend the most per month on their grandchildren (averaging $402.40), with money mostly going toward presents, food and drink, clothes, toys, and day trips. Many say they make sacrifices to provide care for their grandchildren (40%) – and for 20%, it can be a financial burden. However, caregiving has impacted the original retirement plans of only 10% of grandparents.
Australian grandparents think they’re doing a good job – but it can be difficult. Overall, almost 80% of grandparents think they’re doing a good job. At the same time, for more than a quarter it’s been harder than they expected. Over 80% also say being a grandparent has changed their lifestyle – a statistic that jumps to 90% among regular caregivers. More than half of those who provide regular care say that looking after their grandchildren can be physically demanding, and a third said it affected the time they have for themselves.