How to Stay Close With Your Teenage Grandkids

Make spending time with your grandchildren a priority. Yes, it’s a fast-paced, crazy-busy world we live in today — and that’s bound to be overwhelmingly true for your teens. You don’t have to set a regularly scheduled appointment, but every so often, reach out to them to let them know how important they are to you, offer to cook for them or take them out for a meal and make yourself available to visit with them at their convenience.

Ask them for their advice on the latest tech. Admit it: Your grandchildren probably know more than you do about the latest electronic devices and apps. Take your cue from them about ways you can stay connected, whether it’s Skype, Zoom,® FaceTime,® texts or something new. And while there’s nothing like a face-to-face, in-person visit for building relationships and strengthening bonds, there has never been a greater variety of ways for people to communicate with one another, even when long distances or other issues keep them physically apart. Take advantage of some of those methods to stay in touch.

Respect their boundaries on social media. Teenagers generally value their privacy, and this can apply to their activities on social media as well. Some teens just aren’t comfortable having their grandparents in their “Friends” group on Facebook or following them on Instagram, while others perhaps are. Whatever your teens’ views are on this, understand their need for independence and space, and don’t take it personally if your access to their social media is restricted.

Focus on them — their individual interests, their activities, their lives. Whether it’s sports, academics, the debate team, theater, music, writing, dancing, travel, painting or pets, find out what your grandchildren especially love, and ask them questions about it. If it’s possible to be there in person, then attend events in which they are participants (games, recitals, or performances, for example), just to offer them your support. Show them that you are truly interested in them as individuals and that you would love to hear about the things they enjoy the most.

Find a shared nostalgia. Whether it’s the old-school method of combing through video discs (or even VCR tapes) by hand or the potentially more-streamlined process of searching through files on your computer or phone, dig out some home movies from years past, and watch them with your grandkids. They may find it funny to see images of themselves when they were tiny tots. Or consider playing a favorite game they’ve enjoyed; for example, your teenagers may still find it hilarious trying to trick Nana into drawing the “Old Maid” card the way they did when they were little. Ask them about family traditions or family stories they may remember and find especially meaningful, and enjoy and celebrate those together.

Seek to understand them and their generation better. Young people today feel intensive scrutiny and judgment from every direction, whether it’s their peers, school administrators, society in general or even, perhaps, their parents. Talk with them, find out what they value and believe, and let them know you really want to understand their perspective on the world, even though sometimes you may see things another way. Your grandchildren will appreciate knowing that you respect them, that you are there for them without passing judgment, and that you’ll always have their back. Don’t feel the need to solve their problems — instead, just listen to them, and let them know that you love them without conditions, completely apart from anything they may accomplish or do.

Let them know you love them at any age. Understand that although your relationship with your grandchildren has changed since they were younger — and will continue to change as time goes by — this is okay; they still need you, just in a different way. Cherish the memories you have of them as babies and small children, look forward to important times in their lives that lie still ahead, but let them relate to you in their own unique way, and look for ways to express to them that you love them for who they are right now.

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