As families travel near and far to share the holiday season with loved ones, the reality of having several generations under one roof can occasionally cause tension between grandparents, parents and grandchildren. But with a little strategic planning, grandparents can find ways to connect with grandchildren, avoiding tension and upset while forging a closer relationship.
Being a grandparent can be a tremendously rewarding relationship, but it takes an effort to find ways to engage different age groups with vastly dissimilar interests, experiences, manners and attitudes. With young children, it’s fairly easy to find common ground playing games, baking cookies or reading books together. But as grandchildren become teenagers and young adults, the gulf between generations can widen.
Tips to Connect with Grandchildren
- Try learning how to use social media and other technology to stay relevant
- Let them choose a movie or play to see
- Ask open-ended questions that will lead to a discussion
- Include their friend(s) in activities
- Talk to their parents about interests
- Don’t criticize wardrobe, makeup or hairstyle choices
By embracing new technology, staying current on your grandchild’s activities and attending events whenever possible, you let grandchildren know that you are interested in their lives and want to be a part of their world. Teenagers don’t necessarily want to talk on the phone each week, but they will likely respond to a quick text wishing them good luck on their upcoming play, concert or exam. Please don’t ask them how school is going, you will likely only get a “fine” and the conversation will quickly die.
Music can also be a great way to bond with grandchildren. Find out what music interests them and perhaps introduce some of your favorite artists; bonus points if you still have vinyl and a turntable.
Finally, let your grandchildren feel they have your ear to vent about teachers, parents or friends and keep that information to yourself unless there is a serious issue that would risk their health or safety. Leave judgement aside and try to be empathetic and a good listener; gentle suggestions rather than solutions are often what teenagers really need from their older family members. Most of all, relax, have fun and try to enjoy the holidays together; everyone will be off in different directions before you can say “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”.