To Grandmother’s House We Go – Encouraging your child to spend time with their grandparents

By Gina Roberts-Grey

Is your child’s lackadaisical attitude toward spending the night at her grandparent’s house bewildering? At eight years old she longed to seek refuge from her siblings at grandma’s house. Now as a teen, you can hardly pry her away from her friends and the phone to spend an afternoon visiting her grandparents.

As your child enters the ‘terrible teens,’ she experiences a confusing range of emotions and influences. She’s transitioning from feeling dependant on her family to spreading her wings and exploring the world through pre-adult eyes. And probably doesn’t possess the reasoning and skill to realize how valuable time spent with extended family members is because teens are focused on friends, the latest styles and maintaining their grades.

The age difference can be a double edged sword in the teen – grandparent relationship. The generational separation gives each of them a different perspective of the other person. They share a mutual love for each other but not necessarily for the same music, fashions or movies. Although she may not consciously know it, your teen does want to have a relationship with her grandparent. She just needs you to be the bridge to connect their very different worlds.

Establish a goal for their relationship. Talk to your teen and her grandparents to express your expectations for their relationship. Highlighting the experience, unconditional love and vested interest grandparents have in her well being will help her realize the importance of spending time with them.

Find The common denominator

The most common complaint cited by teens is that visiting relatives is “boring”. “There’s nothing to do there” usually precedes a valiant pitch to stay behind on a trip to visit grandparents. Teens passionately feel that staying home to take a nap or go shopping with a friend is a more productive way to spend an afternoon.

Despite thinking that spending time with family is only for holidays and special occasions most teenagers have a similar interest, talent or characteristic as their grandparent. Look for common interests to restart the enthusiasm to spend time with your child’s grandparents.

If creativity is prevalent in your family, use that as the foundation to nurture this challenging phase of their relationship.

Help coordinate a scrapbooking project. They can spend hours pouring over family photos, cataloging the generations and putting together family albums for each of them to cherish.

Encourage them to put together a recipe book filled with both of their favorites. They can plan one weekend a month to spend together trying out new recipes or making their favorite dishes.

Sorting out magazines, catalogs or other periodicals that they both enjoy gives insight into each others hobbies as well as a chance to spend an afternoon together.

If your teen likes to go shopping, suggest a trip to the mall for lunch to share a day window shopping with grandma. They both can admire the latest fashions and enjoy the chance to get to know each other.

Hobbies or activities are another avenue to pursue on the quest to strengthen their relationship. Teens with a love of books can accompany their grandparent to explore new libraries while others can share their penchant for vintage automobiles with grandparents. Frequenting auto shows or searching for auto parts with grandpa are great alternatives to video games or excessive lounging.

Park districts and community colleges offer a variety of classes and seminars for your teen and her grandparent to participate in together. A chance to learn a new language, investigate the art of pottery or explore nature photography together not only introduces a new hobby into their lives, it opens the door for them to spend time learning about the other person.

Soft spoken children can enjoy quiet times spent with their grandparents writing poetry, doing crossword puzzles, or simply taking a walk. As they spend time together, your teen will once again realize the comfort and unconditionally loving environment that time spent with her grandparents affords her. She will appreciate the chance to take a break from her friends and the pressures of coping with all the emotional and physical changes she’s experiencing and grow to value the opportunity to unwind.

A relationship with teen grandchildren and out of town grandparents presents additional obstacles. Technology savvy teens and grandparents can keep in touch via email or instant messenger services. Encourage your teen to send copies of report cards or newspaper clippings that feature her accomplishments. Purchasing them each calling cards or sign-up for a family long distance calling plan that gives them the chance to chat without financial worry.

Purchase a journal for them to send back and forth to each other. They can each take turns writing in it for 2 to 3 weeks. At the end of their turn, they mail it to the other person to add their thoughts and read what’s been added. Your teen can find out what her grandparents do during the day, who they visit and how they’re feeling. They each can share favorite stories about the family or each other, as well as ask questions or play words games together.

The journal will chronicle both of their lives and offer a chance to look back at these years when she’s an adult. She’ll fondly re-read the exchanges and will look forward to reminiscing about the experience with her own children when she’s an adult.

When she’s long past her teen years, your child will reflect on the treasured closeness shared with her grandparents. She’ll be thankful not only for the wonderful memories, but for your help in preserving their connection. SFM

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer. She writes for parenting publications around the country.