Half of grandparents feel lonely due to lack of connection with grandchildren, according to survey - but they’re tackling this in a very modern way

An expert shares tips on how to support a lonely grandparent

Grandfather hugging granddaughter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A survey suggests more than half of grandparents feel loneliness associated with lack of connection with their grandchildren - but they're doing something about it, and tackling it in a very modern way.

While it's natural that grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren, that's not always possible. Some older people make 'grandparent fails' which they likely aren't aware of, but can cause family members to avoid them on occasions. They could have made mistakes with their own parenting that need rectifying before the relationship with their children and grandchildren can move forward - experts have identified six phrases adult children need to hear from their parents, for this to happen.

One grandmother even shared her controversial tips for spending more time with grandchildren to social media, which some branded supportive, and others felt were actually manipulative. In looking at familial relationships, The Telegraph reports a recent survey of 10,000 grandparents found 53% said that they felt distant from their grandchildren. A further 39% report this leaves them with feelings of loneliness.

We also spoke to BACP registered counsellor Madeleine Kingsley, who specialises in supporting families. She shares insight into supporting grandparents who are struggling to adapt to their grandchildren spending less time with them, or needing support for loneliness in general. Madeleine says "Remember it's natural for grandkids to move on from the stage of snuggling into their grandparents while reading stories or baking buns with them. But there are many ways to accept and move on from these feelings."

However, it's not all gloomy, as grandparents are already being proactive in response to their feelings, and doing one important thing to combat it - becoming tech savvy. A whopping 87% of those interviewed say that photo and other connection apps on smartphones have a positive impact on their relationships with family, with 57% concluding these have reduced loneliness.

"A recent survey of 10,000 grandparents found 53% said that they felt distant from their grandchildren. A further 39% report this leaves them with feelings of loneliness."

Grandmother Mary can identify with this. She told us "I've always disliked technology, and never wanted a phone or to learn how to use the internet. When my grandchildren got their first phones, they encouraged me to upgrade my simple phone to a smartphone. I was reluctant but knew that sometimes it was going to be my only chance to connect with them as they got older and spent more time with their friends and didn't need us for babysitting, or find our house as exciting as they used to.

I was a bit resentful of my smartphone at first because I thought I'd never understand it. But now I've got WhatsApp and email, and my grandchildren send me lots of pictures when they go on holiday or out for the day. It makes my day to get them, and I'm so glad we can keep in touch in that way. I've found a lot of my friends have WhatsApp too, and we have our own group that makes organising meeting up so much easier. I'm so glad I embraced technology, even if I am still trying to fathom online shopping."

How to support lonely grandparents

Madeleine shares her top tips for lonely grandparents to support themselves. 

  • Keep in touch with their teenage and young adult lifestyles via their parents who may share your wistful nostalgia for the golden age of single figures.
  • Relish the occasions when the grandchildren do meet up with you in person.. Keep up with the tech and any advancements so you can share photos and online posts of their new activities and friends. 
  • Try writing down memories of your life, at their age. If not now, the time will come when they do return to family and they'll likely be fascinated by your tales of times past. 
  • Near or far, grandchildren are our great good fortune. No one promised us them, so celebrate their healthy, exuberant youth... they are our posterity and chance at immortality.

For more on grandparents, did you know there's a grandparent code - a list of ways the older people in our lives can keep family relationships strong. Five types of grandparents have been identified by experts, and you could find your on the list. If you've ever heard of 'grandma brain,' scientists can confirm it's a real phenomenon.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.