How to Be a Better Grandparent
Tips on Building Great Relationships with your Grandkids
a special feature from Leslie & Kay, founders of Grandparentslink.com
While we learn to navigate this ‘grandparenting gig’ on the fly, we believe one of the best things in the world is to take a minute and take stock on how you want to enjoy your relationship with your grandchildren. As grandparents we all want to make the most of the precious family time we get to spend with our grandchildren. You can create deep, loving relationships with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love and by learning about what excites them. Whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living thousands of miles away, find new ways to strengthen family ties and provide your grandchildren with joyful memories and valuable life lessons.
What’s so grand about being a grandparent?
In no particular order, being a grandparent is an opportunity to play, to love someone new, to appreciate the magic of a developing mind, and to be needed by someone again.
- Share the things your grandchildren are passionate about because you are a whole new audience.
- See the world in a new way through their younger eyes.
- Experience games, music, nature, reading, art, and other interests in conjunction with their curious young minds.
- Provide expanded support and encouragement.
- Use your breadth of experience to avoid the pitfalls you may have encountered as parents the first time around.
- Watch your grandkids develop through all stages of growth.
- Learn about your grandchildren’s music, art, sports, passions, and schoolwork.
- Provide input (when invited!), based on your experience.
Tip 1: Spend quality time with your grandkids
The best grandparenting activities flow naturally from the interests of both grandparents and grandchildren. You can create a deep, loving relationship with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love with them, and by being available to learn about the ideas and activities that excite them.
Tip 2: Take it easy together
Make an effort to enjoy leisure time with your grandchildren. As a grandparent, you get to interact with your grandchildren without the same daily pressures of a parent— you don’t have to worry about driving carpool every single day or juggling making dinner for the family with soccer practice and grocery shopping. Allow yourself to slow down and become really absorbed in an activity. Moving at a slower pace than usual gives children a sense that time can be ‘stretched’—that you don’t need to hurry through activities. And, as with adults, it gives them the psychic space to feel, reflect, and express emotions without feeling rushed.
Tip 3: Go outside
Children love the outdoors, and trips to the park or the beach can be great jumping-off points for some wonderful adventures and happy memories. Nature walks and day hikes provide lots of interesting things to talk about; water activities are especially fun. Throwing stones into the water or simply watching the current are simple activities that can be fascinating to children. Start these activities when kids are toddlers, and expand the games and experiences as they get older.
Tip 4: Share your interests or your work
Engaging in hobbies and activities that you love or your grandchild loves are great ways to spend time together and learn about each other. Sometimes, activities that you might not expect your grandchildren to be interested in, like knitting or gardening, might turn out to provide an important point of connection for you. Similarly, if you take an interest in something they are passionate about, like trading cards or the Harry Potter books, they get to share their special area of knowledge, and they may open up in new ways.
If you are still working, a visit to your place of work adds a new dimension to your grandchild’s perception of you. If you are retired, pictures and stories about what your working days were like can do the same.
Tip 5: Grandparenting on the road
Taking a trip with your grandchildren or sharing your love of a favorite place will help you create special memories together. Special trips, whether it’s a day trip to a national park, a weekend in a nearby city, or a week-long resort vacation, will always be remembered by the child as a special journey with grandma or grandpa.
One of the great advantages of traveling with your grandchild is the opportunity for both of you to be away from home. Being on the road means being free of chores, errands, the computer—any familiar routine. It opens up all kinds of possibilities for the unexpected—even on the best-planned trip. All the chances to read train and bus schedules, ride a ferry, stay in a motel or B&B, eat out, or have lots of picnics, offer opportunities to discover new parts of the world, of yourself, and of your grandchildren. Involve your grandchild in planning the trip, and of course, involve his or her parents to be sure that they’re comfortable with the plans. Then hit the road! After you’ve traveled, an album of your experiences together can be an ongoing delight for everyone in the family.*