Page last updated at 00:29 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 01:29 UK

Teenagers 'close to grandparents'

Boy on phone
Teenagers are relying on grandparents to help them get through difficult times

Today's grandparents are closer than ever to their teenage grandchildren, a national charity has said.

A survey by Grandparents Plus found young people were turning to their grandparents for help in dealing with family traumas, including divorce.

As a result, many grandparents were becoming mentors and confidants as well as carers, the study concluded.

It also found teenagers with a strong "grandparent bond" were more likely to be kind and considerate.

Researchers spoke to more than 1,500 teenagers about their relationships with their grandparents, and carried out 40 in-depth interviews.

Baby boom generation

The study, called My Second Mum and Dad, suggested that some grandparents were filling a parenting gap as more parents work and divorce and separation rates remain high.

Many helped teenagers with school work, while more than half (55%) of maternal grandmothers attended school events.

At least one in four (27%) teenagers said they talked to their grandparents about problems they could not discuss with their parents.

We need to do more to recognise and value this relationship because it's good for families and good for society
Sam Smethers
Grandparents Plus chief executive

The study suggests the latest generation of grandparents may relate better to today's teenagers because many are baby boomers, and therefore younger.

Almost half (48%) of those polled were in their 60s, meaning they became grandparents in their 40s or 50s.

More than two-thirds lived within 10 miles of their grandchildren and kept in touch by phone and e-mail.

Many teenage grandchildren believe they have the right to stay in touch with grandparents after their parents break up, and would even go behind their parents' backs to see them, according to the report.

27% of teenagers talked to grandparents about subjects they could not discuss with their parents
86% of grandparents gave money to their teenage grandchildren
85% of teenagers said they respected what their grandparents said
Source: Grandparents Plus

Grandparents Plus chief executive Sam Smethers said the report showed just how critical a role grandparents played in teenagers' lives.

"With more homes where both partners work and high rates of parental separation and divorce, grandparents are playing a vital and growing role supporting parents and young people," she said.

"We need to do more to recognise and value this relationship because it's good for families and good for society."

The charity is calling for changes to be made to recognise grandparents' role in society including:

• Schools to do more to involve them in school life

• Flexible working opportunities extended to grandparents of working age and two weeks' granny leave in a child's first year

• Free sessions of relationship support, counselling and mediation available to families, including grandparents, after parents split up

• Review of grandparents' access to grandchildren and legal rights after parents split up.

Schools minister Diana Johnson said: "Government recognises the important role played by thousands of grandparents across the country in today's society and it is important that we continue to look at how services can better suit every member of the family, from dads to grannies and everyone in-between."

A cross-government summit will be held later this year with contributions from grandparents about issues that affect them.

Ms Johnson said their views would help inform the Families and Relationships Green Paper due later this year.

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