Connecting Generations

Overview

This project has been developed to help grandparents and grandchildren connect through intergenerational mediation, with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. All families experience change. However with the prevalence of family break-up, migration and a growing older population, there have been structural changes and changes to traditional values. These have resulted in a growing number of grandparents experiencing loneliness and isolation. In addition, with one in three working parents in the UK relying on grandparents for childcare, grandparents can be under strain themselves and may need support. Good communication is crucial in negotiating boundaries and expectations within family relationships. A recent Oxford University study shows that, at times of family breakdown and separation, many grandparents play an important role in bringing stability, not only to grandchildren but also to the whole family, helping them cope with difficulties and providing practical and emotional support.

The Connecting Generations Project has been developed to help grandparents and grandchildren connect through intergenerational mediation, with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s IntergenerationALL programme. IntergenerationAll is a new programme to address the most urgent areas for intervention – isolation and loneliness, particularly of older adults, dislocation from family and culture through migration, and the need for shared action to protect our environment. South Lanarkshire has looked at existing support for families and developed the project by building on the success of these services to make them more inclusive and effective.

The project specifically aims to:

  • Reconnect grandparents and grandchildren where contact has broken down
  • Promote the importance of intergenerational kin networks
  • Provide any additional support for parents, grandparents and grandchildren through the counselling service, parenting workshops and child contact centres.

Success factors

  • Spending time with a grandparent mediates better social skills and fewer behaviour problems among adolescents, especially those living in single-parent or step-family households
  • Grandchildren can be a unifying element, bringing the three generations together, regardless of whether parents and grandparents have harmonious relationships
  • Mediation can avoid the strong sense of loss that children may feel if cut off from contact with an existing grandparent
  • Mediation often avoids costly, protracted or harmful litigation.

“We have been aware for several years of a gap in mediation services to help grandparents. Grandparents Apart receive a high volume of calls from people desperate to retain or establish contact with their grandchildren. No service has been geared to this particular problem until now.” Jimmy Deuchars, Grandparents Apart.

Marjorie and Henry went through a period of estrangement from their daughter and they lost touch with their grandchildren. Margaret feels a service like Connecting Generations could have made a difference: “Not seeing our grandchildren was extremely difficult. Of course the welfare of children must always come first but we believe grandparents can be part of this. Our story may have been different if we had had support earlier on – a third party would have given us the opportunity to try and work things out better for everyone’s sake.”

Benefits for Younger People

  • Improved social skills and fewer behavioral problems among adolescents, especially in single-parent or step-family households.
  • Opportunities for bonding and creating meaningful relationships with their grandparents.
  • Mediation helps prevent a sense of loss that grandchildren may feel if contact with their grandparents is cut off.
  • Acts as a unifying element, bringing together three generations, fostering family cohesion and support. 

Benefits for Older People 

  • Combat loneliness and isolation, which are prevalent issues among the older population.
  • Provides a platform for reconnecting with grandchildren, fostering emotional connections and support networks.
  • Offers support and mediation services to navigate challenging family dynamics, especially during times of estrangement or family breakdown.
  • Helps grandparents feel valued and involved in the lives of their grandchildren, contributing to their well-being and sense of purpose. 

Benefits for the Community

  • Promotes the importance of intergenerational relationships and kin networks, strengthening community ties.
  • Addresses issues of isolation and loneliness among older adults, contributing to a safer and stronger community.
  • Mediation services help prevent costly and harmful litigation, reducing the burden on legal systems and promoting peaceful resolution of family disputes. 

Funding

Supported and funded by the Caloustie Gulbenkian Foundation

This project contributes to the Scottish national performance framework (NPF)

Scottish NPF Objectives

The main NPF objective that this project contributes to is:

• Healthier will enable people to live longer and healthier lives.

These NPF objectives could also apply:

• Safer and Stronger aims to help local communities to flourish and become stronger, safer places to live.

Scottish NPF Outcomes

We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk: Tackling risks early and building the resilience of children, young people and families will improve the educational, health and employment outcomes of our people.

We live longer, healthier lives: Securing longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland will always be a top priority for governments and individuals alike. There are significant challenges which can only be addressed by everyone in Scotland working together, pursuing this goal through improving lifestyles and life circumstances, and a shared ownership of an effective NHS.

We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others: Being part of a strong community gives us the support we need locally. It minimises crime, antisocial behaviour and their social and economic costs.