NANA’S HOUSE by Teresa Kindred
Recently I heard from a grandmother who wrote to me with a question. She and her husband were very close to their grandson as he grew up, but now he’s in his late teens and he no longer comes to visit. They miss him so much, and she wanted to know if there’s anything she can do.
It made me think about my own grandchildren. I see the younger ones much more than I do the oldest, and I understand a lot of how she feels. So I put together a few ideas for grandparents of teenagers, and I hope other grandparents will chime in with more suggestions that work.
6 Ways to Be Closer to Teenage Grandkids
1. Communicate with them the way they like to communicate.
Times have changed, and if your grandchild prefers texting to phone calls, then text. If they have an email address, ask if you can send them email now and then. Or maybe there’s another kind of technology you can learn. Meet them on their ground but don’t flood them with constant messages. The teen years, especially after they start driving, are the years of self-discovery. They need space to figure out who they are and where they are going.
2. That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the old-fashioned way, too.
Phone calls on birthdays or special occasions can go a long way toward keeping the lines of communication open. Also, occasionally send a thoughtful card or handwritten note to help make them feel special. I still have a few cards my grandmother gave me on my birthday, and just seeing her handwriting never fails to warm my heart with thoughts of her goodness and love. Before email and texting people wrote handwritten letters. Some of my most prized possessions are letters from my parents while I was in college. Send your grandchild a letter and share a photo of a special event from when they were young. Not many things say “I love you” more than sharing memories that involve you and your grandchild.
3. Offer to take your teenage grandchild to dinner or shopping and let them pick the day.
This one comes with a warning: if you have a budget, make sure they know to choose a restaurant you can afford, and if you take them shopping it’s even more important to set a limit on the amount they can spend.
4. Explore their music.
What are your teen grandchild’s favorite bands? What concert would he or she love? Buy tickets for yourself and them and let them take a friend. You might not enjoy the band, but you will enjoy watching them have fun. The car ride to the concert is your opportunity for talking. If you went to concerts when you were younger, show them pictures and talk to them about music. Music really is the universal language and can help connect generations.
5. Do not take your teenage grandchild’s absence personally.
It’s hard, I know, but at that age it’s “all about them.” Try to remember what you were like as a teenager. Many of us were somewhat self-centered during those years. Many teens juggle school, work, friends and family life and it can be overwhelming. So don’t be offended if they’re occupied with other things.
It’s a scary world and teens face difficult choices daily. They need the gift of your prayers more than they know. One day they will appreciate those prayers. I know without a doubt that my mother’s and grandmother’s prayers carried me through many rough patches.
Even though you don’t see your teenager as much as you did when they were younger you are still an important part of their lives. You are their storyteller, their memory keeper and their prayer warrior. What you do with your life is still an important example to them—don’t forget that.
If you keep the door open to them and do your best to remain in contact with them, one day they will come back to you, and they might bring more with them.
Teresa Kindred is a freelance writer, former teacher, and author of several books, including The Faith-Filled Grandmother. She’s the mom of five grown children and “Nana” to seven precious grandchildren. She and her husband live in Kentucky. Her blog for grandparents is at NanaHood.com.