Being a grandparent has its rewards and challenges both. For many a granny, it’s a sweet spot where they get to shower their grandkids with affection without the primary responsibility of imposing extensive discipline and boundaries on them. If you’re a grandparent who’s unsure of how to effectively connect and bond with your grandkids, here are some basic things you need to know.
For starters, (you already know this but it’s worth emphasizing) the grandparent's role is different from that of a parent. Unless you have been made in-charge of raising your grandchildren, you cannot assume the parent role. That actually means plenty of wiggle room.
As a grandma or grandpa, there is more flexibility when it comes to handling your grandchildren. You get to spoil them and balance out the usually more restrictive treatment of their parents, while still providing the supplemental guidance they need.
The late and early baby boomers are now grandparents to the modern generation of Gen Z and millennials. These are the young, internet generation who were born in very different times compared to their boomer grandparents’ era. The digital age they grew up in is a very complex landscape that’s not easy for old folks to navigate.
These kids, teens, and young adults are bombarded by an influx of influences from all fronts - the traditional and digital media, their online and offline social circles, so-called social media influencers, their generation, imperfect like those before them, is known to be tech-driven, independent minded, insatiable, impatient, less open to reprimand, prone to depression and anxiety, have a sense of entitlement, and always craving for relevance, authenticity, and self-care. There is a world of difference between their generation and yours, but that doesn’t mean the chasm is beyond bonding. their communities, coaches, and the evolving world in general.
They may have been branded, quite negatively, as the woke and snowflake generation, but like the generations before them, they are also often misunderstood. With the right opportunity and support, they can also make a huge difference in the world like many of their predecessors did.
As a grandparent, you play a key role in helping them do that. The challenge lies in getting through to them and making connections that matter by setting aside preconceived notions and self-serving agenda. You can begin by looking at them through the lens of care and empathy. Being fussy and prying towards them, no matter how well-meant, may not be the best way to connect with them, much less win them over.
While this generation have their own strengths, they also have weaknesses that need the wisdom of old - something only their grandparents possess. This is the reason why grandparents need to bond with this modern generation - to pass on life wisdom to them and in exchange, learn new things from them, too. It's a complementary relationship that brings a host of benefits to both sides.
Your relationship can be nurtured by engaging in activities that build and strengthen your bond. Here are some ways to create meaningful and enjoyable relationships with your grandchildren.
It doesn’t have to be a formal, full-scale lesson, it can simply be incorporated in activities while the grandkids are visiting or as some random instruction and exercise on a regular day to while away time. You can even go further and do a collaboration with your grandkid and create content for a vlog featuring life hacks using old wisdom. It can be a fun and fulfilling learning and bonding experience.
Without sounding all-knowing, you can bond with your grandkid by sharing with them what you know from experience. And having lived for many years, you probably have a treasure trove!
Life skills that have been mastered by most boomers - from managing difficult people, proper pet care, to repairing busted fixtures can be shared to this young generation. These activities can teach them the values of patience, level headedness, empathy, responsibility, and mental strength.
Conversely, grams and gramps can ask their grandkids to teach them a thing or two about the digital world. While old folks tend to be tech-averse, intimidated by all the screen action going on, learning about technology from your grandkids can be a good way to bond with them. It's what you probably know little of that their generation knows best.
Things like blockchain, AI technology, or even online shopping through apps can be fun to learn, especially when taught by your grandkids. It also helps increase your knowledge, and help you adapt to the modern way of life in this internet world. Because the young generation craves for a sense of purpose, relevance, and influence, this can make them feel valued in your eyes which can bring them closer to you.
You may not belong to the postwar era of fighters and survivors, but you sure have your own share of struggles and victories in the past.
You can share your inspiring stories with your grandchildren to help them get a glimpse of how the world was during your time. This can give them a better and broader perspective about life and help them appreciate the perks and comforts they now have access to.
You can share with them practical lessons you learned about love, money, career, and more. They will appreciate how open you are about your past and hopefully they learn from your misadventures and be inspired by your successes.
Don’t forget to show them some old photos to back your story for greater impact!
Sometimes, children do not feel comfortable sharing their struggles and troubles with their parents, so they run to their grandparents for help.
Instead of ‘parenting’ them, you can use this opportunity to be someone they can trust and count on, not to tolerate their wrongdoings but to guide them to the right way. Listen to them and cultivate a healthy communication line with them so they will feel comfortable opening up to you about what’s bothering them.
You may not be a fan of their taste in music, food, or recreational activities but there are ways for you to connect with their world.
Even if you feel too old to play video games or watch their favorite band with them, you can surprise them with a concert ticket or a new gadget. Or you can watch their games or performances and support their talent and passion.
As you make an effort to acknowledge their individuality, you may also share with them your interests like crocheting, woodwork, or gardening. You might be surprised to know that your grandchild may develop a liking for it too. It can be a good bonding activity you can share on a weekend.
Be open to new experiences like traveling with your grandkids. Bring them to your favorite place like your childhood play area, or to some sentimental spot like the church where you got married or where you had your honeymoon. Let them bring you to their favorite sites, too and enjoy the journey and destination with them.
Try the local cuisine and immerse yourselves in local cultures. It doesn’t need to be abroad, especially if you don’t have the energy for long travels. A trip to a nearby suburb or to a coastal city to your liking can be a good way to create memories and share new experiences with them.
Enjoy the scenery, stroll along beaches, have a scenic drive or a train ride - there is lots of fun stuff to do that transcends generations.
Shopping is one of the best ways to bond with the younger generation. They are so aware of the latest trends that shopping will likely excite them. If your grandchild is fond of fashion, makeup, sports gadgets, or food, bringing them to the mall or supermarket can be a fun experience for them.
You can also be extra generous and ask them to pick something they like and buy it for them as a gift. No occasion needed. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and this will teach them to be generous and thoughtful to others too.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you may even create your own personalized gift for them. What matters is that you make them feel valued and thought of. It’s not about bribing them to win their favor but making the effort to make them feel special to you even on ordinary days.
Engaging this generation beyond the occasional holiday visits and sparse conversations may not be easy but it’s attainable. There may be differences in your ways but nothing that old-school, loving warmth cannot bridge. All you need is a heart that embraces your grandchildren and makes them feel loved and accepted. This doesn’t mean letting them have their way all the time!
It’s about finding a sweet middle spot that brings your polar worlds closer together, without losing your respective generational character and flair.
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