Written by Isabel Tom, Speaker, Educator, & Author
How can you cultivate a meaningful relationship with your grandchild when you’re in competition with YouTube, video games, and all the activities that your grandchild has?
We live in a time full of distractions, yet you as a grandparent have a unique opportunity to enrich your grandchild’s life in ways other relationships cannot. Creativity and patience can help you to connect with your grandchild even if they are not naturally drawn to spend time with you.
As you seek to develop a more meaningful relationship with your grandchild, you may find that your grandchild sometimes seems uninterested. This is normal, so take heart knowing that every minute that you invest in loving your grandchild will make a difference.
Here are several ways to engage your grandchild every time you have the chance to connect.
1. Use visuals
Expecting your grandchild to engage in conversation like an adult may be unrealistic. The best public speakers capture the attention of their audiences with visuals. Why not do the same? The next time you see your grandchild, bring something tangible to show them especially if they have a short attention span.
When I was in my twenties and my grandfather had just passed away, I remember my grandma unfolding a rectangular piece of red silk as she went through my grandfather’s things. As she spoke, my eyes scanned across the red silk cloth looking at the faded signatures. Mama, which means “paternal grandmother” in Cantonese told me how my grandparents had so little money when they got married they couldn’t even treat their friends to a banquet dinner. Instead, their friends treated them to a meal since they couldn’t afford much. The signatures on that silk cloth represented the guests who attended their simple ceremony.
Maybe you have a diploma or an important letter from the past. Maybe you still own an old-fashioned popcorn popper or sewing machine that you used in the past. Instead of telling your grandchild about it, show them. Being able to look at and even touch something tangible can stir up questions in their minds that can lead to meaningful and fun conversations.
2. Show interest in their hobbies
One of the best ways to turn your grandchild’s head and show them that you care is to choose one thing they enjoy and then ask them tons of questions about it. When you take the step to ask them questions, you not only learn more about your grandchild’s interests, you offer them undivided attention— a rare commodity these days!
It’s not uncommon to see children or teenagers talk over each other in conversation. In addition, it’s also not uncommon to talk to someone while they are looking down at their phones. Your grandchild likely craves a listening ear. Your availability and curiosity about their interests can help them feel seen and heard in a noisy world.
Let’s say your grandchild loves video games. Here are some questions you could ask:
- What game are you playing?
- Are there other video games that you like, too?
- What do you enjoy about this video game in particular?
- How do you play it?
- If you’re brave, tell him you’d like to learn– “Can I give it a try?”
3. Tell them about the past (and don’t forget the details!)
If you want your time with your grandchild to be more meaningful and fun for both of you, tell your grandchild a story about what life “used to be like”. If you’re visiting for the holiday and you drive by a playground, tell your grandchild what your playgrounds used to be like.
The most important thing to remember is to share the details!
It’s one thing to tell your grandchild that playgrounds weren’t quite like they are now. It’s another to share with your grandchild what types of play structures you played on as a kid. Reminisce about the way things looked, smelled, felt, and sounded.
For example, if your granddaughter loves fashion, tell her what was “trending” or popular when you were younger. Don’t stop there. She may want to know the following:
- Did you have a favorite dress that you liked to wear?
- Where did you buy it from?
- How much did it cost?
- Did you buy clothes or make them?
- Did you have the option to buy it online?
- How many outfits did you have in your closet? (Did you have a closet?)
Use details to bring your grandchild into your world. They may come back asking for more stories!
4. Don’t hide aging or your health conditions from them
You may assume that knee replacement is not a topic your ten-year-old grandchild would want to hear about. Think again. Talking about your own aging process could be extremely interesting, especially to future scientists and medical professionals.
Children love to learn new things and the body God has given us is fascinating. It may have never crossed your grandchild’s mind that knees can be replaced! It may never have crossed your grandchild’s mind that hair changes color over time or that our muscle decreases with age. It may be intriguing to a teenager or young adult grandchild to hear about how slower processing speeds can affect an older person as they age. If your grandchild shows interest in your health conditions, learn together.
If your grandchild is younger, ask them if they know what diabetes, COPD, or osteoporosis is. Try to explain things in simple terms. Or simply teach them how to say certain health conditions. Teach your five-year-old grandson how to say “osteoporosis”.
Talking about the aging process with your grandchild can help your grandchild build awareness of the needs of the older adult population; it can also help them to appreciate the healthy body that God has blessed them with.
So whether you are showing them items or telling stories from your past, sharing a hobby of theirs in the present, or inviting them into your aging process, focus purposefully and intently on them.
Through time spent with them, a stronger genuine relationship will grow. Do not worry about competing with other voices, just use yours to impact their lives.
Editor’s Note: Isabel Tom is the author of The Value of Wrinkles: A Young Perspective on How Loving the Old Will Change Your Life. (Book Promo Video | Website | New Digital Course)
4 thoughts on “Four Creative Ways to Connect with Your Grandchild”
Excellent article with a lot of good suggestions! Thank you!
I have read Isabel Tom’s book and highly recommend for any age to read.
I wish it were easier to print out these helpful articles. Whenever I have to tediously copy and paste many times the blog author does not get included, then when reviewing the article later it is difficult to remember who should get credit.
It depends on what browser you are using. You can choose the “Print” option and then select “Save as PDF” or some browsers also have a “Export as PDF” option. You can always share the link which will take people directly to the blog article.
Thank you for the above article! Very good suggestions. I have applied some of above and will try those I have not . I have two teen age grandchildren. The most difficult thing to do is take their focus away from their iPhones.