This article builds off of the previous post, which can be read here.
My dad’s parents taught me to play card games and told stories about my Grandpa beating all the other soldiers at Cribbage. My mom’s mom taught me to bake — real, old-world baking with lots of butter, yeast, and white flour. And the stories she told about my mom’s dad taught me about farming and life in the American Midwest. We lived a plane flight away from both sides of the family, and still my grandparents had a profound impact on my life.
Today, grandparents often play an even bigger role in children’s lives. In general, their health is better and they live longer. As more families include two working parents, grandparents are picking up the slack with childcare. And for the grandparents who do live far away, technology like Skype and social media make it easier than ever to stay in touch. Last week we looked at the importance of children having a strong family identity. This week we’ll look at how grandparents specifically can connect with teens and help give them that sense of identity.
How can grandparents connect with their grandkids? There are several obvious disconnects between grandparents and teens. They are separated by not just one generation gap, but several. Their interests, abilities, and experiences are very different. They may not even live anywhere close to each other! Yet intentional steps taken by grandparents and parents can facilitate good connections, which hopefully a teen will quickly reciprocate. Here are some ideas, written as steps a grandparent could take:
- Invite each grandchild to do something unique with you — just the two or three of you.
- Teach your grandchildren a hobby or skill, such as fishing, cooking, woodworking, etc.
- Attend their events, even the boring ones: recitals, baseball games, marching band parades.
- Plan an event, outing or vacation for either all the men or all the women in the family. This is especially beneficial when teens hit 12 or 13 and are going through puberty.
- Invite your grandchildren to events and social gatherings that are important to you, whether that’s church, the local VFW, or Rotary club. Let them meet your friends.
- Ask your grandchildren to teach you a new skill, such as digital photography, or game, such as Minecraft.
- Use texting and Skype to communicate, even if it feels difficult to learn.
- If you speak a second language, teach your grandchildren some of it. Have a few words that can become part of the family vocabulary even if the kids don’t become fluent.
- Talk about family traditions you enjoyed from your own childhood. If the tradition hasn’t continued, find a way to restart it.
- Gather a few time honored recipes and teach them to your grandchildren.
- Keep track of special events, or big games or tests, and call or text your grandchildren on those days.
- Start a collection together (dolls, stamps, postcards) and build it, whether you are together or far apart.
Share this post with the grandparents you know. I hope there will be one or two new ideas for building family connectedness.
Sadly, I know there are many cases where family brokenness makes forming a strong family identity difficult. Next week, we’ll look at navigating the ups and downs in a family.
*Several ideas from this post were first shared in this article, which is a faith-focused article about passing on religious beliefs to grandchildren.