Grandparents can have a major impact on a mom’s mental health, study says

Grandparental support is especially critical for moms facing potential separation from their partners

In the bustling world of parenting, where the to-do list seems never-ending, there’s a new beacon of hope — grandparents. A study from Finland, dubbed the “happiest country in the world,” reveals the significant positive impact of grandparental support on a mother’s mental health.

“Having healthy grandparents around can provide valuable social support and foster a sense of community for mothers,” Gifty G. Ampadu, PhD, an attending psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center’s Child Outpatient Psychiatry Department, explained to Good Housekeeping. This support ranges from childcare assistance to sharing parenting duties, especially for single or separated mothers, and enriches the grandchildren’s mental well-being through regular interaction.

The Finnish study analyzed data from nearly half a million mothers of children under 12, and found those with active, healthy parents under 70 — who were employed and lived nearby (less than 7 miles away) — are less likely to suffer from depression. Grandparental support is especially critical for moms facing potential separation from their partners, having a more significant effect than post-separation or while remaining in the relationship, underscoring the invaluable role of grandparents.

“The mental health of mothers with young children is a critical public health concern,” Ampadu said. “We know that maternal mental health has an impact on the home environment and parenting behaviors. Studies have shown that maternal mental health can affect the mental health and social development of children in many ways.”

And for the supermoms out there without the luxury of having healthy parents nearby to help, there are other things you can do to support your mental health.

Ampadu suggests building a supportive network with other parents, prioritizing self-care and seeking advice from mental health professionals. The essence of community support, extending from close friends to educators, underscores the principle that the more support a mother receives, the better equipped she is to nurture her children.

Grandparents, with their unique ability to offer support, wisdom and love, play a pivotal role in this nurturing ecosystem, reinforcing the adage that it takes a village to raise a child.