Article by By Dr Lynda Shaw
Teenagers are notoriously difficult to communicate with, with parents often receiving no more than a couple of grunts to let them know that they are OK. But grandparents can have a very special relationship with their grandchildren and play an integral role in the lives, so what is the best way to make the most of this and communicate effectively?
Teenagers are less self-absorbed than we give them credit for and a lot of the time they are interested in hearing what their grandparents have to say, but it is up to the grandparent to make it relevant and interesting to the teenager. That’s not to say you need to know what’s number one in the music charts but you do need to find a way to relate to them. Ask them about their friends, interests and plans but encourage them to ask about you too.
Role of the grandparent is to be supportive and loving
If your teenager comes to you for advice, use examples from your own youth to compare and give lessons from. The technology and trends might have changed from when you were younger, but general life lessons and moral advice is just the same that it has always been. This will help your grandchildren from seeing you as totally ancient and more that you went through similar situations that they are going through now. Your job as a grandparent is to be supportive and loving, no matter what.
Don’t judge the outward appearance of grandchildren
Don’t judge your grandchildren, or make negative comments about their appearance. One of the greatest barriers to stopping grandchildren from having a great communicative relationship with their grandparents is that they often feel judged on their outward appearance. Hearing negative things from grandparents will prevent teenagers from wanting to open up to you and build a relationship. Physical trends are constantly changing, but just because you don’t understand why your grandchild suddenly has an abundance of piercings, or is wearing clothes that you find inappropriate doesn’t mean that you should nag them about it- they probably get enough of that from their parents!
Treat the grandchildren like adults
Sharing a meal together without their parents always being there is another great way to build relationships and open communication. Families who sit down for family dinners often have better levels of communication than those who don’t, and the same is true for grandparents and their grandchildren. It also doesn’t just have to be the sit down part of the meal that you share together, cook with them as well and pass along any old recipes that you have – making them a part of family traditions can really help them to feel like a valued part of the family. Most importantly treat them like near adults, they will feel closer to you for it.