Life Style

The essential role of grandparents in the transmission of family history

Étienne is a 70-year-old “young” grandfather. As he thinks about what he would like to pass on to his three grandchildren, he often thinks of his own maternal grandmother whose letters he treasures. “Mamine” was affectionate, modern and very “cash” in the way she spoke to her grandson.

→ TESTIMONIALS. What grandparents want to pass on

As she was for him, Étienne would like to be “a mirror” for his grandchildren. In close proximity to them, while putting them in front of themselves. “I observe you, I tell you what I feel to help you develop your personality”, he translates in his own way. Above all, Étienne would like to pass on to them what he himself has received: the love of life and the frenzied optimism shown by his grandmother who, despite the cruel ordeal of the loss of a son, in 1945 , at the end of the war, never gave up.

Family history

In this period of health crisis, this role of reassurance provided by grandparents takes precedence over many other transmissions, more traditional, even a bit stereotypical, such as learning good manners or a taste for reading. .

At least this is the opinion of Armelle Le Bigot, president of the School of European Grandparents (1): “The crisis has brought to light the need for family ties, especially with grandparents who can act as family glue or anchor point. This generation, having experienced other difficulties in the past, is expected to provide the energy, the confidence and the keys to getting out of it ”. An implicit transmission which was able to be expressed in particular at the time of the reunion through exchanges on the vision of life, the essential values, the need to help each other.

During the reunion, it is also the family history that was transmitted. “Small children are curious about their parents’ childhood that grandparents like to tell”, supports Béatrice Copper Royer, clinical psychologist. We took the time to bring out old photo albums, to tell memories, sometimes even to embark on a genealogical research.

“When everything falters, there is the story of the ancestors. Grandparents are keen to pass on the history of their own parents, family values, the DNA of a lineage ”, abounds Sophie Gaillet, founder of the digital media Grand-Mercredi.

Transmit through the senses

“The transmission of family history also goes through the senses, in observing daily life, for example by preparing a cooking recipe”, adds Béatrice Copper Royer, citing the example of this grandmother of Algerian origin who, through her recipes from North Africa, aroused the curiosity of her granddaughter, and transmitted to her the side of a life which she had never heard from her mother.

→ MAINTENANCE. What role for grandparents in the transmission of the faith?

“When they are teenagers, you have to adapt, take them as they are, take an interest in them, be curious about their world so that they are curious about ours”, adds the psychologist, herself a grandmother of seven grandchildren, the penultimate of whom grew up abroad in a bilingual environment. : “I sing songs to him and read him stories by Skype to teach him French”, she testifies.

Material gesture

The transmission of a family history, a guarantee of solidity, reassuring for the grandchildren, can be associated with another transmission, more implicit, of marital stability, which has become less common today. “Grandparents can thus give the example of a functioning couple, the testimony of a peaceful life”, analysis Pierre Dauptain, notary in the Paris region.

→ TESTIMONIALS. Summer 2020, the reunion holidays with the grandparents

This does not prevent the elders, on the contrary, from being sensitive to the difficulties of their grandchildren. These generous ancestors plan, when they can, to compensate for the worries of a grandson or a granddaughter, by a material gesture in their favor, whether it is the donation of a sum of money, a bequest or life insurance, or even a transgenerational gift-sharing, as part of a family pact.

Because they are much more invested than previous generations, with their grandchildren, grandparents have a front row seat for Wednesday activities or short holidays. They are willing to share their passions by offering “smart” outings to get away from everyday life and the tyranny of screens.

Share your passions

“Culture is an immense territory of expression. Going to the theater, the cinema or visiting an exhibition are privileged moments of transmission ”, emphasizes Sophie Gaillet, from Grand-Mercredi. Much more than a long speech, making discover a Charlie Chaplin film can be a wonderful medium for transmitting its values ​​of tolerance and solidarity.

Time and patience are precious allies in introducing a young child to a technique or know-how, such as gardening or fly fishing. “Sharing a passion nourishes the relationship, creates a bond that often lasts in adolescence, or even later”, observes Sophie Gaillet.

→ BOOK. “Grandchildren explained to grandparents”, guide to family anthropology

Having become grandparents, many of them recognize that they are much more into listening and speaking than when they were parents. Need repair? In any event, this arrangement is conducive to transmission, which takes time. A long time to make the link between several generations. “Privileged moments, without pressure or stake, during which we can tackle deep subjects, say what we believe in, what we like, with the desire to leave a mark, an imprint”, considers Catherine-Juliet Delpy, educational psychologist and coordinator of the next issue of the journal Spiral, dedicated to grandparents and transmission for whom, fundamentally, the issue of transmission to grandchildren is give them the desire to live and exist and help them find their own path ”.


Parents rely on transmission

On the role of grandparents, parents say the importance of transmission and time sharing with grandchildren.

For 67.3% of parents, it is the time spent together and the creation of a bond that are priorities. Follow-up of the transmission of values ​​(47.8%), of a family history (39.3%). Followed by the sharing of activities (43.7%).

The idea of ​​transmitting values, of a story, increases when the age of the grandparents increases while the sharing of activities becomes less expected.

Men expect more a transmission of values, family history, life experiences, while women place more emphasis on sharing activities and simple time sharing.

Source: 2020 study carried out for the National Union of Family Associations (Unaf).


For further


“Spiral. The great adventure of Mr. Baby ”. Quarterly review. Number 97 – special grandparents file from the transmission angle, coordinated by Catherine-Juliet Delpy. Publication on April 8, 2021. Ed. Eres. € 15.

“65 brooms. Thoughts of a notary on the new sixties ” by Pierre Dauptain. In an essay that is both serious and playful, illustrated with song lyrics and references to films from the 1950s and 1960s, the author gives food for thought on the evolution of family law, and provides valuable legal information, accessible to all, and particularly to young grandparents, also known as the “sandwich generation”. 2020. 133 p. Ed. L’Harmattan. € 15.50

“Grandparents, the strong link” by Béatrice Copper-Royer and Marie Guyot. 2018. 182 p. Ed. Albin Michel. A book widely illustrated with examples and testimonies on the place and role of grandparents, especially when the family is far away, separated, recomposed or in conflict.

Transmit remotely

– Your grandchildren’s e-mail box

Create an email address for each grandchild, [email protected], with a password. Send to this address your impressions, confidences, photos … You will give the password to the recipient, for example, the day of his majority.

– A grandparents blog: share with your grandchildren your dreams, thoughts, wonders.


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