It’s easy when they’re kids because you have so much freedom and they have so much time. With toddlers and all the way up through elementary school, grandparents and children bond almost instantaneously.
In retirement, many grandparents take advantage of the fact that they can go to the zoo on a weekday, build a train set, go to the pool, or simply sit in front of the television with an endless supply of vanilla (preferably sugar free) ice cream. Many kids love their grandparents… but as they get older a lot of things change.
For starters, many teenagers get overwhelmed with school especially since college isn’t simply nice-to-have anymore but a genuine requirement for their future. Additionally, as they age, they want to spend more time with their friends and significant others. Simply “going to the zoo” isn’t enough for them anymore.
So what can you do?
To better the relationship of grandparents and teens, it’s best to work of the teenager’s schedule. At first glance, that may sound like you’ll never see them, but it’s quite the contrary. When kids become teenagers, they like to maximize their time. So much of it is spent in school, that they’ll run out the last minute (and likely go over) curfew.
However, there are some things they’ll need help with; some things their schedule will require, but their friends may not be interested, that’s where the grandparents step in.
Volunteering is huge for college applications – and is often a requirement to graduate high school. Volunteering also keeps grandparents young and invested in activities so why not do it together? Most places require at least 6 months to a year commitment, and a weekly or bi-weekly attendance. That enables the two of you to spend quality time together while still working towards goals.
(And it’s almost like you’re writing your own symbolism into life, as children, you took them to the zoo, now as teenagers, you volunteer at one.)
Some teenagers are naturally athletic – which we all envy – but many enlist in sports that require spending time at the gym; others just want to stay in shape. This could be a great activity to do together as seniors ought to be working out every day.
And, this is the one time where a teenager being self-conscious may lead to more bonding. Many teens don’t go to the gym with their friends simply to not be embarrassed. Fortunately, with a grandparent, the two can bond and be free of judgments.
3. Smart Phone Games
You don’t need to know how to change the timer on your VCR to know how to play smart phone games. In short, teens (male and female) play mobile games. They do it while they’re with their friends, waiting in line, going to the bathroom, etc. Talk together about what games they have and play with them. Stay in contact. Text them when you’ve submitted a new word on “Words With Friends” (or what we old-timers’ call Scrabble).
Hangman, Chess, Scrabble, Monopoly – you name it. Most games don’t have a steep learning curve and it’s a great way to stay involved in their lives.
4. Be the Resource
Teens have a lot of projects and a lot of dreams. Find a way to get involved and be their resource. The parents are often too busy with work to supply their kids with adequate resources… so if your granddaughter is failing shop class and needs access to a woodshed with tools, be that resource! If they’re writing a report on Baby Boomers, be that resource.
Finally, even if you don’t know how to do something, choose to learn something with them; something they’re passionate about. If it’s photography, take a class at a local college; if it’s computer programming, invest in a computer; if they’re engrossed in a book, read a copy.
Relationships change as we get older, the trick is to adapt to the new dynamic instead of pining for the old days.