The bank of Gran and Grandad? How grandparents support families

How grandparents support their children and grandchildren is varied, especially during the cost of living crisis

Grandparent tipping a jar of coins into grandchild's hands
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Financial advice, lessons on manners and politeness and how to be independent are among the most important ways grandparents support their families, according to new research.

The findings from Legal & General’s survey of 2,000 grandparents and 2,000 grandchildren show that while financial support and guidance is a key component in how grandparents support younger family members, intergenerational lessons on behaviour, skills and hobbies rank highly in what grandparents and grandchildren value in their relationships.

But with many young families facing the turmoil of skyrocketing rent and mortgage costs, the role of grandparents in supporting families could be set to change.

How do grandparents support their families?

The findings show financial assistance is one of the most valuable acts grandparents can do for their grandchildren, with 44% of grandparents having given money as a birthday or Christmas gift. Not only is this a helpful way to boost children’s coffers, but it can set up a good relationship with money and saving - a lesson that can last a lifetime.

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Some grandparents may opt to defer cash gifts in place of long-term savings products, like Premium Bonds for their grandchildren or by setting up a Junior ISA.

But it’s not only gifting where grandparents make an impact. Childcare costs have become a significant factor in parents’ lives, and almost half (48%) of grandparents said they spend time with their grandchildren to reduce the cost of childcare, while 17% revealed they provide childcare duties every week to help reduce the burden.

According to the government website MoneyHelper, the average cost of sending a child under the age of two to nursery is £7,210 a year for part-time care, and £14,030 for full-time.

Grandchildren are also being indirectly financially supported by grandparents, with one in three saying they have received money-saving and financial advice from their grandparents – priceless knowledge in these tricky economic times.  

Paula Llewellyn, chief marketing officer and Direct MD of Legal & General Retail, says: “From imparting invaluable life lessons to providing emotional support, grandparents serve as beacons of wisdom and guidance for younger generations.”

She adds that at a time when the “cost of living continues to bite,” the findings highlight how grandparents “help ease the financial burden on their families while passing down important life skills”. While inflation has fallen from its double-digit highs, it remains sticky at 8.7%, causing many families to tighten their belts and look for ways to save money.

Grandchildren responding to the survey ranked manners and politeness as the most valued life lessons passed on from generation to generation, followed by financial advice and self-sufficiency.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Manners/politeness 51%
Money-saving / financial advice 30%
Independence/self-sufficiency 30%
Friends/relationship advice 26%

What practical support do grandparents provide? 

Beyond providing support for childcare costs, grandparents perform a whole host of duties every week to support their family, helping them save both time and money.

About 17% of grandparents babysit or provide childcare every week, while 13% brave the school run. One in eight have the pleasure of assisting with schoolwork, while 9% contend with allocating chores to grandchildren.

But how often grandparents do the school run depends on where they are from.

Yorkshire and the Humber were revealed as the region where grandparents do the school run most often – 125 days per year on average, compared to the South West, with only 75 days. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Babysit / childcare17%
The school run13%
Advise on school / schoolwork12%
Allocate chores9%
Provide additional help when a grandchild or parent is ill8%
Advise on friends / relationships7%
Advise on jobs / work5%
Take child on holiday2%

There was some concern among grandparents about not wanting to interfere with child-rearing; 64% of grandparents said they avoid decision-making as they do not wish to undermine the parents. However, 74% said they feel valued when they’re asked for advice on their grandchildren’s upbringing. Additionally, just 29% of grandparents described themselves as a “decision maker” in how their grandchildren are raised. 

How do grandparents and grandchildren spend time together?

In addition to being the least likely to help with the school run, grandparents in the South West also spend the least amount of time with their grandchildren, with intergenerational families seeing each other 85 days per year. Those in the North East spend the most time together - 141 days, on average.

Unsurprisingly, 84% of grandparents agreed that they don’t want to miss out on spending time with grandchildren, while just 51% of grandkids said the same of their grandparents. 

But Covid has reshaped how families spend time together: 36% of grandparents said they have spent more time with their grandchildren since the pandemic, compared to just 19% who’ve spent less time. 

That time is commonly spent sharing hobbies, particularly with younger people, where a surge in craftiness has opened the door for more time spent sharing skills. A third (32%) of 18-24-year-olds revealed that they were taught sewing or knitting by their grandparents – more than twice as likely as 35-44-year-olds (15%) and 45-50-year-olds (15%). 

Meanwhile, half of all grandchildren said they had been introduced to cooking and baking through their grandparents, while around one in three report being introduced to gardening, puzzles or sports.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cooking / baking 51%
Gardening 34%
Puzzles 33%
Sports 31%
Sewing / knitting 26%
Collecting 21%
Model building 14%
Tom Higgins

Tom is a journalist and writer with an interest in sustainability, economic policy and pensions, looking into how personal finances can be used to make a positive impact. He graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a BA in journalism before moving to a financial content agency. 

His work has appeared in titles Investment Week and Money Marketing, as well as social media copy for Reuters and Bloomberg in addition to corporate content for financial giants including Mercer, State Street Global Advisors and the PLSA. He has also written for the  Financial Times Group.

When not working out of the Future’s Cardiff office, Tom can be found exploring the hills and coasts of South Wales but is sometimes east of the border supporting Bristol Rovers.