©2019 by Kathleen Berger

Grandmothering: Building Strong Ties with Every Generation

Contemporary grandmothers are often marginalized from extended family life because social institutions and grandmothers themselves do not understand that they could be vital for working parents, for overactive children, for suicidal youth, indeed for many of the problems of modern grandchildren.


The genetics and hormones of older women have designed them to be vital family members, with patience and perspective that come with age and experience. In addition, biology helps directly via menopause. The grandmother hypothesis explains that human women, unlike almost any other living creature, experience decades of life after menopause, in order to make grandmothers available to their descendants. 

Here, Kathleen Berger explores he role of grandmothers in the lives of their grandchildren. She uses real life examples to illustrate how grandmothers can best integrate themselves into the lives of their children’s families without overstepping. She explores the particular needs of each stage of childhood as they relate to grandmother involvement and input. Before a child is born, grandmothers need to attend to building a strong relationship with the future parents. In infancy, attachment and feeding are crucial. In early childhood, grandmothers need to follow the parent’s lead, remembering that a parental alliance is essential. In childhood, children need to be safe but not isolated, and both bullies and victims benefit from a grandmother’s support and assistance. In adolescence and emerging adulthood, grandmothers need to build direct connections and not avoid the difficult topics of sex, drugs, death, disease, and money. Throughout, elders need to learn technology, insuring that it fosters, not impedes relationships. 

Problems in relationships are explained honestly and with insight. Among these are issues when three generations share a home, when parents get divorced, and when grandchildren rebel against parental authority. Throughout the work, both the joy and the complications of effective grandmothering are described. Whether you’re a biological grandmother, a trusted step-grandmother, or just a warm and trusted older woman with young ones in your life, you can be a vital force in the lives of future generations.

What Readers Are Saying

“Dr. Berger writes for women who, like herself, are drawn to their grandchildren not only with heart and soul, but also with brains, a political conscience, a scientist’s curiosity and precision, and a determination to be the grandmothers their children need.”

Rush D. Holt, PhD, CEO Emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science, former Member of Congress

“Grandmothers, rejoice! Grandmothering is a roadmap for “rules” of the road for grandmothers of every ilk. It’s packed with solutions to strengthen your bonds and astute advice to help you through the inevitable pitfalls as your family grows and changes. The bonus: An understanding of your “cell-deep” connections to your children and grandchildren, be they infants, teens or adults.”

Susan Newman, PhD, author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day

“With great warmth and wisdom, Dr. Berger challenges stereotypes and offers guidelines and strategies for addressing common dilemmas. She synthesizes a wide range of research and blends key findings with personal stories to make a compelling book.”

Joan Zweben, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry; University of California, San Francisco

"Dr. Berger does an excellent job of defining the sensitive role of grandmother–she’s not the mother, but not simply a friend either. She points out ways to navigate between the extremes of being too involved and too far removed from the grandchildren and of respecting the dominant role of the parents. I loved the humorous example she gave of mistakenly packing dog treats wrapped in colorful paper in a grandson’s lunch and deciding as a result to 'back off' and respect her daughter’s wish to control the food given to her son.

Dr. Berger does a thorough job of explaining how grandmothers can bolster the lives of their children and grandchildren in times of trial and stress, such as divorce, the addition of a new child, or the death or illness of a parent. But she also points out how she can enrich the lives of her grandchildren on an ongoing basis through her resources of time, money, and lifetime experience. In sum, what I wouldn’t give to have had access to this wise and informative book 22 years ago as I began my grandmother experience!”

Elizabeth Fletcher Crook, PhD; Retired Senior State Department Analyst, mother of 6 and grandmother of 24

“After practicing geriatric medicine for 30 years, I thought I knew almost everything about the grandmothers I treated. But, I was wrong. Professor Berger has written a book unlike any I have read in the field of geriatric health care issues. She has taken her own heartfelt experience as a grandmother and strengthened her observations with an extensive knowledge of the medical, psychological, and social science literature. I never knew so much material existed specifically looking at the role of grandmothers in our society. After reading this, nobody can ever take grandmothers for granted again.”

Alec Pruchnicki, MD

“Beyond clichés about grand-parenting, this book is clear, clean, well-researched and doesn’t give advice while leading you where you want to go.” 

Donna Schaper, Senior Pastor of Judson Memorial Church