a special feature from Kay Ziplow, co- founder
Okay grandparents, let’s be honest- as we age- have you ever felt discounted? Have you ever felt that in the one on one or family conversations you are not taken seriously, with integrity, credibility, or perhaps have you felt invisible? The other day while driving with my daughter and her children (my adorable grandchildren) I couldn’t participate in any conversation- no one was giving me an opportunity to just talk- to just participate, and quite frankly I left like Casper the friendly ghost. There was no harm meant- it was just the environment at the time. Life gets busy, and they have busy minds. While I know this was not intentional, it is something that many grandparents have experienced and duly acknowledge. But it did give me a moment to review a check list in my mind about how to stay a participant in their lives no matter how young or old.
When grandchildren are young, they often think grandparents are the best people ever. Parents are the disciplinarians. As a grandparent, you can enjoy having fun with them. It’s fun for younger children to sit and talk or play games for hours on end at grandpa and grandma’s house. As grandchildren get older, especially during their teenage years, it can strain your relationship with them. Teens are caught in the maelstrom between childhood and adulthood. Spending meaningful time with your teenaged grandchild, even if they don’t acknowledge that they appreciated the attention, can make a strong positive difference in their life. It can bolster stability they need to face their life’s challenges.
Remember always- you need to adapt to all the changes as well, so be receptive and be current and be present.
Here are seven simple reminders of how to make the most of the time you spend with your grandchildren:
Love them – Take time out and let them see they are important to you. Tell them you love them. Listen to them. Read to younger grandchildren. Listen to what they want to talk about. They may appreciate that you will spend the time with them, especially if both parents work and have limited time at home.
Show them new things – You have a wealth of experiences that may be unfamiliar to your grandchild at any age. A change from the ordinary is one of the joys of being with a grandparent. Take them to see and do something they don’t or can’t do at home. Talk to them and have them contribute to the decision process.
Let them try to do it themselves – The kitchen may get messy. You may need to redo a project. But the memory that, “Grandma let me do it by myself,” will last for years. You will be there to supervise and keep them safe, but there are many tasks even a young child can work at and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Tell them stories; about their parents, about your life, about how you spend your days – Historically, grandparents have born the responsibility to pass their family story to the next generation. Share what life was like before cell phones and personal computers. Flip through family photo albums. Remind teens of fond childhood memories. Go through family history with pictures from when they were young, when their parents were young, and when you were young. They may ask questions about how you handled your teen years.
Spend meaningful time with them – Sometimes sitting on the couch and watching a favorite movie means a lot to a child. You are not just making dinner or dessert with a grandchild; you are making a memory of time with Grandma and Grandpa. Share your hobby; they may become as interested in it as you are. You may discover a fellow enthusiast and further develop your relationship by sharing ideas and stories.
Be careful about asking your grandchild questions you wouldn’t ask a friend – Teens especially value their privacy and image. A grandchild might be uncomfortable with questions that would embarrass a friend.
Take them on an outing – Go somewhere your grandchild can enjoy. Any activity is more fun when you see your grandchildren involved in it. Explore a park or go for a walk. Take them to your favorite restaurant, play pickleball with them, or teach them how to play your favorite sport. Spend the day at a local park and remind them of special memories that were shared there. Grandchildren need the stability of family, including their grandparents, to help them stay anchored as they grow through emotional and physical changes.