Grandparenting: love across the generations

Grandparenting: love across the generations

Ann & her dad in 1953There are many sorts of father-figure - and they can span generations. ANN ROBERTS, co-chair of Fathers Network Scotland, explains how her dad inspired her to conduct new research into the nurturing role of grandparents.


ONE of my fondest childhood memories of my dad is how he would look after us when mum went to the bingo of an evening. He would turn our toy box upside down so that we could find toys we hadn’t played with for a while.

The place would be a bombsite for a while, until dad said: “Right! Mum will be home soon, let’s pack up!” When Mum came through the door, we would have a secret smile on our faces.   

One of the reasons that I joined the FNS Board in 2014 was my recognition of how important my father had been in my life. He is 91 years old now, and even at his age, he is still curious and engaged in what I am doing.

He is a wonderful listener and is always there to share my successes and my challenges. As a 16-year-old, he joined the Merchant Navy and travelled the world and has always had an independent spirit that continues to this day.

He ran his own business and he used to say to me: “I’ll come and work for you when you get your PhD”. Ann with her dad now


It’s been a long-held ambition to undertake a PhD, but I’ve had a busy career and by the time I got round to it I was not only a parent but a grandparent myself. But why should that stop me? In fact, it gave me the perfect subject for my first step!

When I retired from Police Scotland last year, I enrolled as a Masters student at Stirling University, studying the contribution we as grandparents make to the wellbeing of our families – a subject I’m passionate about.

I think there is more to understand about what is it is like to be a grandparent in the 21st Century – not least in this Year of the Dad, where I’m so proud to be involved in celebrating father-figures of all kinds. Four- and even five-generational families are becoming the norm as people live longer, and I’m interested in how the role of grandparent is changing and how we respond to caring responsibilities both up and down our elongated family lineage.


My particular research topic for my Masters dissertation, is grandparenting and the flow of love across the generations. What helps love to flow and what gets in the way of it flowing?

And as grandparents, how we can share our life experiences, our time, our resources and our skills in supporting all members of our family? It means knowing when to support and when to step back, when to just listen without judgement and when to offer advice. Often it is the little considerations that let our loved ones know we are there for them.

David on the beach with grandchildBecoming a grandmother was a revelation to me. I now have the time and space to be there for my daughters and grandkids.

And I think it has a particular impact on dads, particularly those who were from a generation who were not so hands-on. My husband, David, is 70 this year and an amazing granddad – and really making up for that lost time in his life.

Having grandchildren is so good for us as a couple too. We are back to mooching around the Botanical Gardens with the grandkids or spending a whole day at the beach. It is also great to hand the sandy clothes, towels and kids back to their parents!

Do you know any grandparents who would be prepared to participate in my research study looking into the relationship between grandparenting and love? If the answer is yes, then please ask them to contact me (Ann Roberts) on 07920 772701 or [email protected]