Real Talk: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Your Grandchildren’s Learning
a special feature from educator Collette Bowers Zinn*

This article is a must read for all grandparents. Here are five excellent tips on how to strengthen your relationship with your grown children and your grandchildren…

  1. Connect with your grandchildren through learning.
    If your grandchildren are anything like my kids, there isn’t anything that they wouldn’t do to impress their grandparents! So, use that influence to help them learn. As a parent, by the end of the day I am exhausted, and so are my kids. I’ll admit it… homework time is the bane of my existence! Many of the attempts I make to help my kids with their learning, while in our mutually weary states, are disastrous! So, any time and energy that you can devote to reading, writing, doing math, playing educational games with, or any other activity that advances your grandchildren’s learning, is a huge help. They show up for you in ways that they never will for us, even when exhausted. Wanting to impress my parents is how my daughter learned to read, I swear!
  1. Stop buying knick-knacks – put that money in a 529 account instead.
    Every time my kids spend time with my parents, they come home with some new knick knack – they are thrilled by the new appurtenances for about a day, maybe two, and then they find their places in the knick knack junkyard, amongst the other discarded, grandparent given tchotchkes – may they rest in peace. But what if you fought the knick-knack buying urge, and put the $5 that you would have spent into a 529 account instead? Over the years that would add up… Let’s be honest, in today’s economy, there is nothing that brings fear into the hearts of working parents more intensely than thinking about how in the world we are going to pay for college tuition for our kids! Every little bit that you could contribute helps.
  1. Experiences, not things.
    Please refer back to the discussion of knick knacks, and their short-lived desirability, above, and stop buying things. If my mother buys my daughter one more party dress, yes, I just used the old school term. You know good and well what I am referencing – the fancy dresses that are as big as the day is long, that take up an inordinate amount of closet space. My daughter grows out of each and every one before we have occasion for her to wear it! So please, for the love of education, stop buying your grandkids things and start taking them for experiences that support their learning instead. *Parenting Bonus – when you take the kids for an experience, we parents get a break!
  1. Show up!
    Kids’ schedules these days – wow! Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not a proponent of the overscheduled child. But even a minimally scheduled child pulls parents in a mind-boggling amount of directions! When I tell my kids that I am unable to make it to one of their events, cue the long face and the teary eyes. But when I tell them that Nana and Papa will be there instead, it’s as if the gates of heaven have opened and the joy that they express is far superior to any reaction that I would have gotten had I been able to show up. So, be that source of joy for your beloved grandchildren and show up, all while helping your actual children (remember us?) out.
  1. Remember that time.
    Remember that time when you were a parent and you didn’t have all of the answers, especially with regard to your children’s educations? Please remember that time, as you watch those same children navigate those same precarious waters, and offer empathetic support, preferably silently. If I had a dollar for every time my mother responded “Mmm hmm,” while rolling her eyes, to a precarious parenting moment I’ve had, I actually would not have to worry about paying for my children’s college tuitions! Your judgement is not helpful, in fact it’s an additional burdensome load to bear. A gentle squeeze of a shoulder, during a rough moment, would provide immeasurable support, validation, and much needed love in an otherwise formidable moment.


*Collette Bowers Zinn is a fourth-generation educator with fifteen years of school administrative experience. Serving as an “educational support conduit” for classroom educators, parents, administrators, and the students they serve is her life’s passion. She thrives on finding innovative ways to inspire young people to reach their potential, and is equally passionate about finding ways to cultivate dynamic leaders among her fellow educators so that they are optimally able to connect with and inspire their students. Collette created Zinn Education Management as a resource to provide a plethora of educational support for families and students, including tutoring, homework help, organization and study skills, independent school application support, test prep, technology, behavior management, educational therapy, teacher professional development, and much more!

Collette Bowers Zinn., J.D., M.Ed. | ZinnEducationManagement 866.781.9466