Snowbird Grandparents – The New Type of Grandparent


As more and more grandparents become snowbirds, migrating south for the winter, there is concern about how it affects their children and grandchildren. There are diverse opinions on how the snowbird migration affects families – probably as many opinions as there are family members. As one young child put it, ‘We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa.’ And one parent commented, ‘They are going to miss most of their grandchild’s life and they don’t really seem to care about it that much. They are choosing to be absent grandparents.’ And from one young adult, ‘I had snowbird grandparents and had a terrible relationship with them because of it.’ Another opinion was, ‘They spent their lives raising children and now they are free to do what they please.’ And from a snowbird herself, ‘We raised our kids, it’s our time now.’

As with everything in life, there are pros and cons. It wouldn’t be what I would choose to do but that is me. It isn’t any different than grandparents who live in a different state or province than their grandchildren. And in many cases it’s the offspring who, along with the grandchildren, make the decision to move somewhere else. The main difference is that in this case, the grandparents are choosing to be away from their families.

The positives about having a snowbird grandparent are:

– There is a good opportunity to visit grandparents in a warm and sunny climate during the cold of winter where we live.
– There are still six other months of the year.
– A grandparent can still be a good grandparent regardless of whether distance is a factor or not. There are telephones, snail mail and of course everyone’s favorite, e-mail and Skype.
– A snowbird’s migration to warmer climes does not have to affect family relationships if you don’t let it.
– Grandparents meeting new friends and enriching their lives can only benefit the lives of their family members, They will be more interesting and have stories to pass on to their grandchildren and families when they see them again.

The negatives about having a snowbird grandparent are:

– Their own children, in some cases, resent that the grandparents aren’t there for their grandchildren.
– The grandchildren miss the grandparents, particularly if there had been a close relationship before they decided to become snowbirds.
– There are health or other situations that make their children more reliant on them to assist with the grandchildren.

In the end though, it will be a choice that the retiring couple will make based on their financial ability, health, and their own feelings about being away from family for six months out of the year.

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