Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Simone Saunders BSW, MSW, RSW
How To Support Your Grandparents With Their Mental Health
Published Feb 7th, 2022 & updated on Feb 1st, 2022
Ahh, ageing! It’s challenging to get older and see your parents and grandparents age. They used to take care of you, and now you may be returning the favour. Don’t you wish getting old could be avoided??
Grandparents can have a special, wholesome, and unique relationship with their grandchildren. But getting older isn’t easy, especially when ones’ physical and mental health begins to deteriorate. It can be difficult to watch them go through this, but you can help—just by being there! Showing them emotional support is highly beneficial to their mental health.
According to research published in The Gerontologist, grandparents who have continuous positive, supportive interactions with their grandchildren had fewer and less serious symptoms of depression and better psychological health than grandparents who do not have strong emotional attachments with their grandchildren.
And if topics like mental health, worry, or sadness were not talked about openly when you were younger, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! Let’s look at how to broach these subjects with your grandparents and encourage them to talk about mental health.
1. Lend A Listening Ear
When you were a kid, you may have been told to “have your listening ears on” at school. So often, when a loved one is going through anything, our initial impulse is to fix it as soon as possible by providing solutions. Vulnerability isn’t easy for everyone. Seniors may have had negative experiences sharing emotions in the past that continue to influence them today. Because showing vulnerability hasn’t always been (and still isn’t) normalized from a societal standpoint, it can make people feel exposed.
Something as simple as listening to your grandparents share stories from their life can make a big difference. If they feel isolated, just having a loved one to talk with might boost their mood. Similarly, there may be times when your loved one requires a safe space to express themselves without being judged or given advice. So when you lend a listening ear, make sure to be actively listening as you create a safe environment for them to communicate their feelings.
2. Be A Resource
Through those conversations, you can get a better picture of your grandparents past and present experiences. That can help you piece together what resources to recommend. You can even involve them in some of the resources that you yourself use for your mental health! That could mean sharing an article about journaling, taking a mindfulness course together in the DiveThru app, or watching a YouTube video about a topic they’re interested in.
You don’t need to have all the answers yourself, but just by knowing where to look, you can be a big help for your grandparents. Maybe online research is daunting for them, so having a loved one they can turn to helps a lot! You can also pick and choose what you activities you share based on what they like most. If they like to write, send a journaling prompt. If they’re more of a sit on the couch and chill kind of grandparent, send a breathing exercise. Just as long as they know you’re there to help them when it comes to their mental health.
3. Celebrate Their Growth
Because of your support, your grandparents might take steps like journaling, practicing mindfulness, or see a therapist for the first time (it’s never too late in life to start!). It’s important to remember to celebrate each step of their journey. Recognizing their accomplishments is an excellent way to show that you are their biggest cheerleader and want them to succeed by acknowledging each milestone.
4. Ask Your Grandparents How They Like To Be Supported
You know what they say about assumptions. There are times when we don’t know what our loved ones need, so we just share everything that we know and hope something sticks. Instead, try asking basic questions like:
How can I support you right now?
How can I help you when you’re in need?
Simple and straight-forward questions like these are great ways to help someone open up and understand what support means to them. It means various things to different individuals, so the best way to find out is…well, to ask!
5. Introduce Them To Self-Care Activities
Older generations may not be familiar with the familiar term “self-care.” And if they have heard it, they may have discounted it as luxury not meant for them.
They may have spent a good majority of their lives pouring themselves into taking care of their family, putting themselves second. Talk to them about self-care and what it really means to prioritize caring for yourself. They might not know that self-care can be simple things like going for walks, taking a moment to be mindful, practicing a hobby, or simply doing some deep breathing.
Whether a grandparent in your life has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or you just want to encourage them to be more aware of their mental health, you can help them create their very own self-care routine. Ask them about ways they’d like to prioritize themselves and make sure to include those alongside your own suggestions! Help them establish a structure for self-care and if you’re up for it, participate with them as a bonding activity. Starting a new habit is hard and they might love your company while doing it!
6. Show Them Lots Of Loveeee
Older generations may find it difficult to open up to someone if they were not encouraged to open up or express their emotions in the past. You can provide them a major boost just by showing compassion and being there for them. Those actions show your grandparents that they are a priority. The bond you have with your grandparents is pretty special and we hope these activities to do with your grandparents will only make that bond stronger! As much as these ideas are to support their mental health, they will also be supporting yours.