Research shows that most adolescents and young adult grandchildren have positive feelings about their grandparents and that this affection is affected by how much they believe the grandparent values them. We also know that when young adults believe they share a strong, emotionally fulfilling relationship with a grandparent they also believe that grandparent is influential in their lives.
As grandchildren get older they do become more independent and they spend ever more time with their friends. However, it is obvious that they still thrive on the attention that a grandparent can provide. Here are some ideas to continue building a good relationship with your teenage grandchild:
One of the greatest gifts anyone can give children of any age is their full attention. It’s the one thing grandparents – rich, poor, healthy or housebound, are often best equipped to provide generously.
Acknowledgement and Respect
Your teenage grandchild needs your respect. Teens’ opinions and views are so often ignored or belittled. A grandparent plays an important role in a teen’s life if they take their grandchild’s views, values, beliefs and commitments seriously.
Express interest in what they are doing, who their friends are, the music they listen to, and the activities they are involved in. If you approach them with genuine interest and an open mind, they are more likely to share their lives with you.
Show up to their games, exhibitions, and concerts. Make sure they know that you value them for who they are and what they do. Show your pride in them by showing up and cheering them on. Make the effort to learn something about their interests. Teens today are very knowledgeable and become very skilled.
Depending on their abilities, ask them to teach you how to surf the Internet, hook up your new stereo, or install your blinds. By showing them you have confidence in them, you help them believe in themselves.
Awareness and Sensitivity
Be sensitive to how your grandchild is changing developmentally. A teenager is dealing with a changing body, moods, identity, and new and powerful emotions. Keep this in mind if they seem self-focused. Don’t take it personally if they want to go out with friends rather than spend an evening with you. Be flexible. Your relationship with them is long term and will continue to grow over the years to come.
At a time when their relationship with their parents may be under stress, a grandparent can offer a sympathetic ear and a stress-free environment. Listen to your grandchild’s problems in a non-judgmental manner and show them you care. You may not always be in agreement with your grandchild, but don’t lecture. Most of the time they aren’t asking for advice, they just want you to listen.
Teens are hungry to be truly valued. Special, one-on-one time with your grandchild lets them know that they are important and worth your valuable time. Look for activities that put you together. For example:
- volunteer to drive them to their activities
- take a course together (kayaking, cooking, computer)
- make a regular date for dinner or movies
- help them with a school project
As teens get older, they do get more involved with their own friends and their own activities. Research shows us however, that grandparents can continue to be an important influence in their grandchild’s lives and can continue to share close, affectionate bonds for life.
Courtesy BC Council for Families.