Who says there has to be a generation gap? With just a little effort, you can help your parents create a strong bond with your children.
At the organization I created to help nurture the grandparent-grandchild relationship, we took a poll of our “GrandCampers”, and found grandparents’ interests typically fall into one of several broad categories:
Explorer – loves exploring science and technology. Tinkering with parts and components and dreams of building a soapbox derby or other cool educational stuff with their grandkids.
Naturalist – is one with nature and loves spending time in the great outdoors – camping, playing, gardening and hiking.
Teacher – a grandparent who enjoys nurturing the grandchild’s natural curiosity for learning. Activities done together reinforce and extend learning and knowledge.
Dreamer – makes time for make-believe by creating activities, adventures, teepees, crafts and anything else that sparks imagination.
How Grandparents Can Create Strong Bonds With Their Grandchildren
For grandparents, by sharing your interests and experiences with your grandchildren both as individuals and with several grandchildren at a time, every grandchild age presents opportunities to bond:
- Preschoolers love to play games and hear stories over and over again. They have a great tolerance for repetition, and you’ll hear the word “Again!” again and again once you get into swing of it. Old standbys like hide and seek and memory games are great, but you’ll also want to challenge them with new games like treasure hunts and storybook character charades. Read them stories, share pictures and tell them about their parent’s childhood, but also listen to what they have to say to learn about them. You’ll be well on your way to creating a lifelong bond.
- Elementary age children are eager to learn. Grandparents who share their experiences and skills soon find they have eager apprentices. This can be anything from taking the kids out under the stars and pointing out constellations to teaching them how to cook a favorite recipe, fish, whittle, sew a specific item or sail a boat. Children these ages don’t want to sit still for long; they want to do things. Inventive grandparents find ways to be part of the action without totally exhausting themselves.
- Preteens and teenagers are very busy and have less and less time — or interest in — spending time with their grandparents. This is an obvious part of the generation gap. Grandparents need to respect that and not demand too much. At these ages, grandparents need to listen carefully to what their grandchildren do share with them, and build that into meaningful conversations. If the relationship is solid, the kids might even ask for advice, but never give it unless it is solicited. When there is opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening together, ask the grandchild what they would like to do, but have some suggestions ready from renting a movie to playing chess or learning something new. It is times like these that will be remembered.
How Parents Can Help Encourage Grandparent Bonding
For parents, the best advice I can offer is to step away and let the relationships develop without your interference or control:
- Make your children available to their grandparents.
- Invite hometown grandparents to children’s events and keep out-of-town grandparents aware of events so they can plan trips around key happenings.
- Tell your children about fun things you remember from growing up with your parents.
- Encourage your children to share their art, projects, achievements, and experiences with their grandparents.
- Don’t tell your children how they should feel about their grandparents.
- Talk with your children about how much time they want to spend with their grandparents.
- Don’t bribe you children to spend time with their grandparents.
By teaming up, parents and grandparents can ensure that every point in the grandparent/grandchild relationship is a building block to a bond reinforced by a lifetime of memories.