Talking with Your Grandchildren

Jan 15th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women

My niece recently sent me an email with her 13 year old son’s document attached; it was his neighborhood group’s rules for their new club.  In the email, she asked what I thought was important about dealing with teenagers and trying to make sure they remain as emotionally and intellectually healthy as possible.  I was honored with the request, so wrote back to her.

I emphasized the importance of talking with your kids.  I told her I thought parents need to be willing to talk about every subject that comes up, when it comes up.  Yes, that includes sex.  If it’s at the dinner table, then that’s where you talk about it. 

I also believe it is important to be respectful with your teens.  And I find, now that I have teen grandchildren, that I still use my notions about what makes for a good relationship with them.  So it doesn’t matter whether you are the parent or the grandparent.  I fill with pride when my 16 year old granddaughter sends me a text message on a Saturday morning asking me to hang out with her for the day.  Of course, I jump at the chance… and she makes the request rather regularly.  So I always try to keep my Saturdays free for her.

So why would a 16 year old want to hang out with her 67 year old grandmother on a Saturday, when she has a gazillion friends clamoring to be with her?  I think some of these explain the reasons:

  • Always listen carefully to what the teen is saying.  That means sometimes you need to listen with your third ear.  Sometimes the youngster is asking one question with another hidden in it somewhere.  “What do you want to do today?”, is frequently the question I hear; but the question behind it is usually, “I want to hang out in the shopping mall, but I need to be sure you want to do that too.”  Listen carefully and attentively!
  • Always show respect for your grandchild.  Respect her thoughts, her wishes, her dreams, her fears, her words, her actions… you can probably fill in a dozen more respectful behaviors.  Respect means you don’t have the answers, but you have the time for a discussion in which your grandbabe can begin to figure out answers that make sense for her.  And you can help her think through pros and cons, trying out something new and figuring out if that works for her or not. 
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about difficult subjects.  I remember the day when she told me she liked talking with me, because “…we can talk about just everything, can’t we Gammy?”  I assured her there was nothing I feared in talking with her.  And I went on to say when she wanted to talk about sex, she could just tell me.  She gulped and said, “Okay, well, I don’t need to talk about sex today.”  I smiled and said, “That’s okay; I just want you to know it’s on the table when you need to talk about it.”  She smiled and hugged me.  I know sex will come up someday.
  • Don’t try to be the teacher, the authority.  I think this is the biggest problem we grandparents face when we talk with our grandchildren.  We think we have to teach them something.  We don’t.  They just want a relationship with us that they find fun-filled.  They have teachers in school.  They have parents giving them direction.   We grandparents are in the fantastic position of being able to just enjoy them, love them, and respect them. 

There are probably more we can add to this list.  And we will probably do that in the future.  In the meantime, enjoy your grandbabes!  They grow up and away too fast.



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