Growing up, I was blessed to have two sets of grandparents who played active roles in my life. They were always my emergency contacts for school, the ones I called when I needed extra help with homework (I have to be honest, it was usually history homework), and their homes were the ones I would go to for the best sleepovers and candy stashes my young self could only dream about. Those conversations and time spent with them not only built an incredible bond between us all, but it also taught me a lot about life and how you should treat people.
A SPECIAL BOND
There’s a lot of value in a grandparent-grandchild relationship. Young kiddos see this value and are all about their grandparents and spending time with them. As they get older, it’s not always “cool” to hang out with someone much older than them. How could grandma possibly know about Fortnite and Minecraft, right? What’s great is, they have more in common than either realizes.
Cheryl Brodnax, a counselor with Crossroads Professional Counseling, shares, “Despite the generational gap, teens and grandparents still have much in common. The basics of developing character, relationship, and purpose are the same, and grandparents can provide life experience to help guide teens through their issues.”
Having someone who is older and wiser in their lives is beneficial, especially because teens can receive a different perspective than one they may receive from their parents. Brodnax shares, “Grandparents serve a unique role in the lives of their grandchildren because they have the gift of helping to mentor the child without the added stress of being their primary parent. Of course, there are exceptions when the grandparent is the primary guardian; however, in homes where there are primary parents, this frees up the grandparent to be more focused on the relationship instead of the rearing.”
What makes this bond even more unique is that grandparents typically have more free time they can offer their grandchild. “This can create opportunities to babysit, do carpool, attend activities, and just visit, which all builds up the relationship and helps the child feel cared about. Because of this investment, children will often feel more comfortable confiding in their grandparent because of the trust and unconditional positive regard that has been established,” says Brodnax.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Grandparents can connect with your tween or teen on his level. They know who your child was before he was “too cool” and had earphones permanently embedded in his ears. They know that underneath it all, he’s still the same sweet little boy. Even better, they both benefit from the relationship they create.
Brodnax explains, ”Grandparents can impart wisdom and a respect for family traditions that contribute to their teen’s identity and family ties across generations. Teens have the opportunity to help grandparents feel relevant in an ever-changing culture, and help them learn technological advances. Even more, teens can breathe the vigor of youth into their grandparents’ lives, and help them feel young at heart.”
A NEW FRIEND
Strengthening the bond between your teen and his grandparents is crucial. The best and easiest way this can be done is through having them spend time together, whether virtually or in-person, where they can do something they both enjoy doing together.
Brodnax shares, “In the process of spending time, teens and grandparents can discover new things to enjoy together: games, movies, or other activities that can become a special connection between the two. I remember learning how to play backgammon with my grandfather when I was younger. This became a tradition that lasted for decades and was something I always relate back to him. Now that he’s gone, the game has become even more special to me.”
A NEW OUTLOOK
Grandparents have a way of bringing out your tween or teen’s best self. Through their bond, tweens and teens are able to approach life’s ups and downs in a whole new way. Brodnax explains, “Grandparents typically relate to teens with less fear than parents because they’ve ‘been there done that’ with their own children and typically mellow out over the years. This can allow teens to feel less anxious and more confident. Grandparents are great cheerleaders who can encourage teens to reach for their goals and feel more positively about themselves.”
The relationship between a tween/teen and his grandparents may not be perfect from the start. However, if both sides keep their minds and hearts open and nurture the relationship together, they’ll have a strong connection and quite possibly, a whole new outlook on life.