Trying to Connect with Your Grandchildren can be tough sometimes….
Family dynamics can be weird. Maybe they are always on their phone, playing video games or playing sports.
Or maybe you live so far away that you feel like they don’t even know who you are. Or maybe they know who you are…but do they actually know YOU?
Whether you are near or far away from your grandchildren there are tons of ways to bond with them in meaningful way. Much more meaningful than just spending a little cash on a toy and hoping for the best.
Inter-generational relationships are important links for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, bonds with grandchildren don’t just form on their own. They have to be tended to stay strong.
And, if you wait around for the kids to do the heavy lifting you’ll be disappointed every time. They aren’t equipped to do that yet, you’ll need to lead by example.
Your grandchildren may not always remember every moment with you, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Here are 11 Ideas to get you started…
Please don’t let yourself get frazzled about this list. Pick one or two or a few things to work on.
This list is meant to inspire…not guilt trip or make anyone feel bad. Maybe something here will inspire new ideas too.
Inter-generational relationships are work and they ALL have some grey area, no matter what they look like on TV.
No one on earth can do all of these for everyone at the same time.
Let’s get started…
1. Spend some time individually with your Grand-Kids.
Spending some one on one time with your grand-kids is a feeling that they will never forget.
When I was young, I was lucky enough to live close enough to my Gram that it was easy to spend one on one time with her.
It made me feel so special and like we really knew each other. We had inside jokes and knew some of each others secrets. We trusted one another. Those are the times that I remember best even though those times were decades ago.
It’s easy to get into a routine where you only see your all of your grandchildren all together during holidays, birthday parties and family gatherings.
But think about how much actual quality time you get to spend really getting to know each individual child or teen during those times…it’s not much, if any at all.
If you have a lot of grandchildren this can be tough, but there are ways to manage it.
You don’t have to run yourself ragged. Split up the time however you see fit. Just make sure to include them all whether it’s just a call, a twice a year sleep-over invitation or a monthly lunch date.
If they live far away make plans to spend a little quality time alone with them when they do visit.
Invite them to come see you or make plans to visit them. Call them and make concrete plans for when they do visit and get to know who they are as individual people. You won’t be sorry.
2. Don’t be afraid to reach out first.
Whether your grand-kids live close or far away there seems to be some expectation from a lot of grandparents that the kids will do all of the reaching out. You’ll be disappointed if you wait for this.
Children need to feel wanted too, just like you do.And, they aren’t capable of taking charge of relationships yet, even if they are in their 20’s.
If they live far away shoot them a text asking if it’s a good time to call. Let them know that you want to chat and catch up.
Facetime them, connect on Facebook or send them a note in the mail if you must to get this accomplished. Whatever it is make sure they know that you think about them.
If they live close, invite them over for cookies, lunch or a movie sometime. Try to be flexible about their schedules. No matter if they are two, twelve or twenty-five, kids likely have as many obligations as you do.
If you make it known that you enjoy their company, they will come.
3. Get involved with what they are doing.
This is a big one. If your grandchild who lives down the street invites you to their play, band concert or baseball game, make the time and effort to go when you can. They really aren’t very long or often and you will be glad that you made the effort.
I’m not saying that you need to attend every event, but if you turn down going to their Christmas Concert five years in a row, you can bet their feelings will be hurt.
They’ll understand if you aren’t feeling well, but if it’s a year after year, time after time excuse that only applies to their events, it will hurt your relationship.
Maybe choral concerts or dance recitals are not your cup of tea, but refusing to ever go will come off like “they” aren’t your cup of tea.
Kids notice and think more about this sort of thing than you realize.
If you live far away, ask them about their hobbies and sports. Ask them for photos and videos so that you can see them in action. Let them brag about what they are good at.
Once this line of communication is open…they’ll be much more receptive to the things that you’re into as well.
Which brings me to the next item on the list….
4. Help them get involved with your hobbies and passions.
Your grand-kids really want to know who you are. Not just your name, but who you are inside.
Let them help you with your hobbies. Plan a project that you can make together. Ask for their help with something fun.
It doesn’t matter if you like to bake, sew, craft, knit or hike, just get them involved if possible.
Not all adult hobbies are appropriate for every age grandchild (obviously). But I’m sure you can think of something you like to do with them.
Three year olds are not going to watch the news with you in most cases…twelve year olds are not going to want to discuss politics or the stock market for hours on end either (although they’ll probably humor you for a little bit as long as you ask about their opinions too.)
Kids, even if they are 25, are not great at sitting around having long, deep discussions about subjects they know nothing about.
If current events or politics is your jam, play cards while you’re talking or take a walk and talk at the same time.
5. Watch how you talk about their parents.
Kids love their parents immeasurably.
If you speak about their parents inappropriately in front of them it will drive a wedge in your relationship faster than a speeding bullet.
So, even if your daughter married a man that you don’t approve of, keep it in check in front of the kids.
If this same daughter has gained some weight, is not a great housekeeper or has a little drinking problem, don’t make judgements about it in front of the kids.
Making snide remarks about their parents should be off the table no matter how old the grand-kids are.
Your issues with their parents are separate and not a part of this relationship.
6. Accept your generational differences.
Try to replace judgement with love. Do they have purple hair? Tattoos? Piercings? Ask them about them and keep an open mind.
And, for the love of what ever you hold dear don’t say things like “how will you ever get a job like that?”. These things are okay in modern culture. They won’t be failures because of tattoos.
If they are doing something that would be considered rude for your generation, ask yourself if it still holds true today.
For example, my generation rarely sends actual birthday cards, Christmas cards, thank you cards or any real snail mail.We send holiday wishes over text and social media.
So if your grandson doesn’t mail you a thank you card for his birthday gift, don’t take offense.
He wasn’t taught to send cards because his parents weren’t taught to send cards.(He should at least call and say thank you, I’m not letting them off the hook that easy).
Also, during a long current events, religious or political discussions it’s okay for them to be on their phones. You cannot expect them to pay attention to deep discussions as long as adults do. They just aren’t equipped.
This is not excusing them Face-booking friends during dinner, but try to make it known what is acceptable and what isn’t in a casual and calm way. Don’t get angry or let your feelings be hurt over generational differences.
It’s just not worth letting your relationship die on that hill.
7. Look for opportunities to help them with practical problems.
Adulting classes are a big business these days. Know why?
Kids spend seven to eight hours a day in school without any life skills or home economic classes.
You might as “Shouldn’t their parents be teaching them what they need to know?”
Think about this :
Their parents are expected to raise kids like they don’t work and to work like they don’t have kids. Something has got to give. Right?
Kids are not learning practical life skills in school and to be perfectly honest, parents are exhausted after working all day, making dinner, walking the dog and making sure everyone has clean socks and something for lunch the next day.
I am not making excuses for hands-off parents or the school system…
I’m saying that sometimes there is not enough time in the day to teach your children about all of the practical things they need to know. It takes a village.
If you have to opportunity to teach your grandchild how to make a pie, sew a button or bathe the dog…help them out.
They’ll think it’s fun but you’ll be teaching them something that will help them live their life well. That’s pretty powerful when you think about it.
8. Try to be an easy person to visit.
Family needs to rely on each other and there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone needs help now and again.
In fact, I used to help my Gram once a month with getting rid of some of the things that she had collected over the years and no longer needed. She was a borderline hoarder and this was always stressful.
But since I spent less than 10% of the time I visited her helping with chores, I was was glad to do it.I loved helping because it wasnt something that I was obligated to do every-time I stepped through the doorway.
It didn’t take time away from us being together.
Sometimes it makes sense to downsize from the big family home if the upkeep is making visits more stressful than fun.
If your property maintenance is becoming an issue maybe it’s time to downsize. AGAIN this is a very personal decision, this is not the right choice for everyone, it’s just something to think about.
9. Don’t play favorites in front of them.
So this list item is touchy. It’s natural to bond closer to some people than others. It’s just the way that human interaction works.
But playing favorites is always a bad thing, you can do great harm in seemingly harmless ways (Proverbs 28:21). I am not religious, but I agree with this sentiment.
Treating your grandchildren differently in front of one another is harmful to them. Kids aren’t dumb and those who are left out will distance themselves from you.You’ll miss out.
When you are spending time with one grandchild and constantly bragging to them about how awesome their cousin is it makes them feel less important. Cherish their individuality and be present for your one on one time.
10. Get Tech Savvy (Just a little).
Technology isn’t going anywhere and people under forty spend a lot of time using it.
If you are reading this I am guessing that your grandchildren are under forty too. Instead of fighting it maybe you can learn to use it to get closer with them.
Learn to use social media to keep up with what their doing. Use Facetime to connect with those far away and ask your grand kids about the games they like. Maybe you can play too.
Check out their virtual reality glasses. Be open to new experiences…you might just have some fun too.
11. DO THINGS WITH THEM ~
No amount of wishing you are close will replace actually doing fun things together.
Make memories when you can, they will remember these moments and how you made them feel forever.
- Take a class together. (Think shorter term like pottery, cooking or paint and sip classes if they are older).
- Cook together.
- Ask them to have a sleepover if they live close.
- Watch Silly YouTube Videos together.
- Play games like cards when you have the chance.
- Call them just to say hi, tell them a joke or ask them about something they are good at.
- Make plans to visit them if you can. If you can’t, help them plan a visit to your house if possible.
- Make plans to visit a museum or landmark in your town.
- Take turns choosing books to read & discuss (stay open to their ideas too).
- Share your music and ask about what they like to listen to.
- Look at old family photos together.
- Tell them stories about your childhood, their parents childhood and when they were little.
- Watch classic films with them. (It fosters a love of the classics and will provide memories every time they see the movie they “used to watch with their Gram”.)
- If you can, teach them a dance from when you were a kid. (This will be great when I get to regale mine with tales of the mosh pit. Thank god I am not going to have to tell them about twerking. It wasn’t my scene.)
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You don’t have to fall into any “old fashioned Grandma role” if you don’t want to.
Let who you are shine through and the rest will take care of itself…
Cheers Spring Chickens!