Being a grandparent is an opportunity to create a fulfilling relationship for both grandparent and grandchild. The connection will be different with each grandchild and will depend on things such as personality and temperament, physical distance and understanding what appeals to each grandchild.
To help in developing that connection, a great question to ask is: What do I want my role as a grandparent to be? Roles such as:
- A warm place to land.
- Someone they can count on for support and advice.
- Keeper of family history.
- Teacher of values, traditions or culture.
- Provider of opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.
- Creating the culture of the extended family.
Being aware of the role you want as a grandparent can help you make it a reality. Consider your own situation and what will help or hinder in achieving your goals.
For example, do things such as distance, family dynamics, time, resources, health or expectations limit or help those goals? What can you realistically expect?
Now consider how you can make the most of your time with your grandchild to create the relationship you want. When you get to know them as a person and understand who they are, from the time they are babies, it will help you choose how to interact with them.
Things to consider include:
- What are their interests, what do they love to do and what do they think is fun?
- What is their temperament? Do they appreciate quiet or active play? Do they like to know what is happening, or do they enjoy surprises? How comfortable are they in a new situation?
- What is their attention span?
- How does this fit with your interests and temperament?
- When communicating with your grandchild, rather than talking at your grandchildren, enjoy the fun of genuinely connecting with them.
Here are some simple suggestions that can make a big difference:
- Decide you’re going to listen and make the time for it.
- Get on their level.
- Make eye contact.
- Ask questions that encourage them to expand on what they’re talking about.
- Put away phones and screens — yours and theirs.
- Sometimes it’s fun to let your grandchild take the lead or be the teacher:
- Join in their play instead of taking the lead.
- Let them choose the games and teach you how to play.
- Let them be the teacher, especially when it comes to technology or what’s exciting in their world.
- Let their interests or causes become yours.
- Another way to help build the bond is to try making books with photos of you and of your times together — this is especially good for little ones.
- Try reading or telling stories together.
And if you’re not able to be together in person, use Facetime or Skype to regularly talk, read stories and just catch up.
No matter how near or far, the most important ways to build relationships with grandchildren are to be clear about the role we want, get to know who they are, adjust our style, expectations and communication to ways that work with them, and be open to new ideas and adventures together.
This article appeared in the March 12, 2018 edition of the Register-Guard.