How to Stay Close to Teenage Grandchildren
It’s a myth that teenagers don’t want to ever hang out with their grandparents. Even though you may mourn the loss of your adorable little grandchild, don’t give up. Being their grandparent doesn’t stop when they become teens. Here’s how to stay close to teenage grandchildren.
Even better news, according to a long-term study, a close relationship with your teen grandchildren is beneficial to the emotional health of you and your grandchild! Research has shown, lower rates of depression in those involved in close grandparent-grandchild relationship.
All relationships change over time and the grandparent/grandchild relationship is no different. Little adorable four-year old’s grow up to be pre-teens and teenagers. What used to feel so easy can suddenly feel difficult.
But it doesn’t have to be!
You Can Stay Close
You can still have a close relationship with your grandchild even when they are older.
I have worked with thousands of teens and it is a myth that teenagers don’t like to be around adults. In my experience, teenagers crave positive interactions with interested adults. I think that’s the key, they like to be around people that are interested in them, as people, and as the person they are developing into.
That is probably the most difficult aspect of any relationship with a teenager. They are growing into their adult self and they really don’t want to be told how to do it. While they will still love you even if you don’t follow the list, you may not feel like you have a close relationship.
Let’s face it. It can be tough to watch the adorable little being that adored you, grow into a person that seems to be so different. Yet, it can be so rewarding too. It’s exciting to see young people grow up!
This post is all about YOU and how you bring yourself to the relationship. To have a close relationship with a teen, you have to show up differently.
Maybe you envisioned when your grandchild was younger, continuing the relationship with you becoming a trusted mentor and advisor. As you envisioned the new relationship, you felt you could help guide your grandchild.
As adults, we are also imagining all the horrible, scary things that can happen to a child that doesn’t heed that wisdom. We know from our own lives that bad decisions can have devastating consequences and we don’t want that for our grandchild.
Yet, we also know, that teens rarely listen to lectures or the supposed wisdom from their elders. They have an innate need to figure things out for themselves. So, the trick is to stay close and provide access to a caring support person.
There is space for a new kind of relationship and one that will be just as satisfying, maybe even more than you had with your grandchild when they were little.
Give up Expectations of “How it Should Be”
Things in life rarely turn out how it should be. Our own lives are proof of that. Approach your relationship with your teen grandchildren with curiosity. That curiosity should be about discovering who they are and who they see themselves becoming.
One of the reasons that teens stay away from some adults is that they don’t feel accepted as they are. It can be difficult to see your grandchild acting out in ways you don’t think are particularly great.
Things that should totally be ignored are haircuts, hair color, piercings, and style of dress. None of that is permanent or your business. Innocent comments such as “You looked so nice when…(something was like it used to be) will be taken, correctly, as “I don’t like the way you look now.”
Things that should not be pushed on your teen grandchild: politics and religion. You can of course, but your teen grandchild will not want to hang out with you if you continually try to impose your beliefs on them.
It’s very normal for a child to explore beliefs that are different than their parents and grandparents. If your grandchild shares your beliefs and you both enjoy discussing them, then by all means go for it!
Even if you think they are WRONG, keep it to yourself. You can share your beliefs by the life you live. A living example of your faith is way more effective than a hundred lectures about it.
None of this means you should accept bad behavior in your presence. Teens don’t mind following the “house rules.” Believe it or not, they probably want you to like them as much as you want them to like you.
It also doesn’t mean that you allow your teen grandchildren to do things, just in the hopes they will like you. An example of this would be serving them alcohol when they are underage, so that you can be perceived as cool.
Accepting someone means accepting them and not trying to change them. While your teen grandchild may do things that you don’t like, they don’t have to do it around you, and you don’t have to try and control it.
They have parents for that!
Get Your Mindset Ready
Having a great relationship always starts in our own mind. You have to believe it is possible. You can also believe that it’s possible for it to be even better than you expected.
Several years back, I worked with hundreds of teenagers on a regular basis and I learned that even the most acting-out teen, is attracted to people that see them, as, well, people. While we know that they have a LOT of growing to do, they feel they are becoming their own person.
It is possible to acknowledge and love this new person. And it’s totally possible that they will love and enjoy being with you!
When I was training to be a counselor, we were taught to do something called active listening. I am not going to teach you active listening, since I’ve discovered something even better.
Active listening involved such things as mirroring back what the speaker had said, thereby letting the speaker know that you had “heard” them.
Active listening is kind of stressful! Not only do you have to pay attention, but you have to figure out something to say back that appropriately lets the speaker know you’ve been listening. That’s way too much pressure and an unintended consequence is that you spend way too much time trying to figure out what to say.
Here’s a better way. Just listen. Don’t think. Don’t judge. Don’t give advice.
But what if your teen doesn’t talk? Don’t rush to fill up quiet space. You can open up with a general, “How are things going?” and see where that goes. If it doesn’t, you might share something you are doing or learning.
Weird questions can also work. If you could only eat one food for a month, what would it be? What’s the craziest thing you want to do before you get too old to do it? If you could design a robot that could do anything, what would it be?
Don’t ask about grades or if they’ve finally got a job.
Just, try, not, to do it.
Don’t Give Advice Unless Asked
By all means, if asked about something, do your best to give a helpful answer but don’t feel like you have to offer advice, unasked for. Usually this is taken as, they are doing something wrong.
If you feel strongly about wanting to say something, ask if they would be open to hearing it. If they say “no” then don’t. If you do have something to share, share something from your own life as an illustration.
Invite Them to do Things
Eating out is always a great option. Or have them over for their favorite meal. Take them shopping for something if it’s in your budget. Ask them what they would like to do. Then do it.
Ask for Help
Don’t make it arduous or crazy hard but ask their help for a specific problem. Technology comes to mind right away. Making a family favorite for an occasion, ask if they want to help and learn how to do it themselves. Focus on something you know they can genuinely help you with.
Be the Best You
This is probably the most important thing you can do. Make living your best life your priority and that will make you someone they want to be around. If you have interests and are engaged in life, you will be providing a great example to them. (How to Have a Cool Life)
Accept That it Might Not Feel as Close as You Want
Teenagers have to do their own thing and, in a way, separate from their parents and grandparents. They have to grow their own identity. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you. If you had a close, loving relationship, those memories will remain. (How to be an Unforgettable Grandparent)
The truth is that they have more things taking up their thoughts than a get-together with grandma. You won’t be their first priority.
That’s okay. You can still ask for time and make an effort. Just don’t be offended if they aren’t as thrilled about it at 16 as they were at 4.
How to Remain Close to Teenage Grandchildren
I didn’t have grandparents that I was close to as a child and definitely not as a teen. However, I did have adults that I loved being around. The adults that I enjoyed being with as a teen, saw me as an individual and were interested in my life.
Think about people you like to be around. Why?
Usually, it’s the people that like YOU. The real you. The people you don’t have to pretend around. The people you can make mistakes around and they still adore you.
You can be that person for your grandchildren and they will remember you forever because of it.
You got this!
More Grand-parenting Ideas
Keep showing up my friends,
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Hi, I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having.