a special feature from Kay Ziplow & Leslie Zinberg, founders
Your role is likely to change as your grandchild gets older, and you should be receptive to life’s swift changes that come with the territory. This is not only because your own commitments might change, well so will your grandchild’s needs and interests will change too. But what won’t change, is how your grandchildren view you. And sometimes we need to reel it back and remind ourselves of changes going on in family dynamics and make sure our behaviors are always coming from a good place. Growing and learning never stops.
This means that even if you can’t or don’t want to help so much when your grandchild is little, you might be able to look forward to doing more as they get older.
For example, when your grandchild reaches school age, they might be keen to share interests and activities – way beyond the school pick up line on Tuesdays. So, if you’re a grandparent who wants to pass on a love of reading, teach your grandchild about gardening or take your grandchild on special outings, this might be a perfect fit. Find your place.
Teenagers and adult grandchildren value your support and interest as they become more independent. You might be able to give them different points of view as they work out who they are and what they want to be. Grandparents are often invaluable partners as grandchildren get older.
Genuinely find out about who they are
It’s easy to huff and puff when we don’t understand someone’s personality or interests. Why is one grandchild so prone to lashing out and the other lost in a video game all day? To be able to build a connection, we can’t just focus on what we like in someone. We also need to aim to understand the things we aren’t so keen on.
Instead of telling your grand children that they should be more like their father or mother, listen to them. Who are they? If one of them has difficulties with anger, read up about it. If one of them loves video games, learn about the games; make an attempt to learn about what they love about the game. If you want them to spend more time in the “real world,” find ways to make the game come alive. Draw parallels to real life. Or find apps that help them engage more in the real world. An app that involves solving a mystery at a museum could, for example, lead to a visit to a real-world museum.
Also, when you learn about something, you can provide better feedback. For example, most parents and grandparents aren’t thrilled about how their children and grandchildren use TikTok. If you tell them straight out that TikTok is bad for them because you read something about it, chances are they won’t listen. Remember that although many factors can have a big influence on grandparent-grandchild closeness, the attitude of the grandparents is the most important one. And while research shows that devotion to one’s grandparents isn’t always a given, the grandparent-grandchild relationship can thrive when the effort is put in to build and sustain it.
In other words, grandchildren don’t automatically value their elders. Instead, they learn to value their individual grandparents and the way they occupy that role. Ultimately, it is the grandparent who is determined to build a strong and lasting relationship with grandchildren who is most likely to succeed!