One of our great pleasures as grandparents is spending time with our grandkids. And it’s much bigger than simply being with them. We want to know them and let them know us. It’s part of leaving a strong legacy.

There are many ways to connect and build that strong bond, and often it’s some unique activity or habit that opens the door to deeper relationships. But for any grandparents who feel they could do better at this, here are three suggestions:

When you see your grandchild, make sure the first thing you say is positive.

A word of blessing or encouragement can really set the tone for your time together. And really, this can’t be too difficult for most of us. We’ve been looking forward to seeing our grandkids; there’s excitement and a spring in our step just thinking about them arriving. Just put that excitement into words:

“It’s so good to see you.”

“I’ve been looking forward to this all week.”

And don’t hesitate to pull out this classic:

“Look how much you’ve grown!”

Also, remember that your last words before they leave can be positive as well.

Engage your grandchildren in their areas of interest.

… not yours or those of their siblings or other family members. Maybe it will be natural, where you and a grandchild have a shared pursuit or pastime. Find ways to keep affirming and encouraging them in that area. Maybe that will mean setting up times to do that activity together.

With other grandkids, maybe there are no obvious, natural points of connection. That’s an opportunity for you to stretch and learn something new. You might want to take up that hobby or sport, but even if you don’t, you can ask lots of questions, draw them out, and continue giving lots of encouragement. And maybe, between times you talk to that grandchild, you can do a little investigating to learn more and come up with more questions to ask.

Focusing on your grandkids’ interests is a great way to build your own unique relationship and make them feel special for who they are.

Verbalize your commitment to them.

Are you there for your grandkids—for whatever they may need, at any time? Many of us would say that we are, but do our grandkids and their parents know that? All too often, we assume that our values and priorities are clear to those in our family. They can tell what we stand for based on what they see in us, we think.

Much of that is true. In many ways, our walk is more powerful than our talk. And if we don’t keep promises, if our actions don’t agree with what we say, that inconsistent message sends a confusing and often harmful message. Our grandkids do need to see in our actions that we love them. Their importance in our lives should be clear in the decisions we make. We do have other interests and pursuits, but our grandkids are a top priority for us.

Still, we should find ways to tell them, even beyond saying “I love you.” It could be a simple as, “You’re important to me.” Or, “You’re one of my favorite people on the planet.” “There’s nothing I’d rather do right now than hang out with you.”

Grandparents: what would you add? What’s your secret to creating deeper relationships with your grandkids? Share your insights and learn from other grandparents on our Facebook page.