Question

Dealing with Teenage Grandchildren’s Relational Drifting

Question:

We spent a lot of time with my grandsons when they were younger taking them places and making memories. They are now preteens/teens and at the age where they don’t want to do things with us or spend the weekend as they did in the past. I am grieving over it. I viewed it as an investment into their lives, but it seems the investment has not paid off. The other grandparent has swept in with money and we can’t afford that. What steps can I take to soothe the loss?

Response:

I understand your feelings of loss. However, I disagree with your conclusion. The investment you have made into their lives is incredibly important and I am sure there have been payoffs already. However, you are much more likely to see the value of that investment as they mature and grow.

Don’t think of this as the end of your relationship or investment in their lives that needs to be grieved. Instead, think of your relationship with your grandchildren as being on a brief hiatus.

During adolescence, it is healthy for preteens and teens to begin to create some distance between themselves and their parents and grandparents as they begin to put more time into relating to peers and figuring out who they are and how they fit in with their peers.

Obviously, there can be problems with peers, depending on the friends they choose but, in most cases, kids learn a great deal about managing future intimate relationships, from their successes and failures with peers.

So, during this hiatus, you might try the following, none of which require money or much money:

  1. Instead of taking them places to make memories, attend their events.
  2. Spend short periods of time with them doing something they want to do- just an hour or two every few weeks or once a month is fine.
  3. Continue to express your love for them.
  4. Keep track of your memories of this time in their lives in a book that you can present to them at a later time.
  5. Cultivate your relationship with their parents and collaborate with them to improve the quality of your grandchildrens’ lives.
  6. Show patience for their attitudes that may, at times, feel dismissive toward you or selfish. If they don’t tell you directly to stay out of their lives (which kids rarely do) stay involved but in a non-intrusive way.
  7. PRAY UNCEASINGLY for them. They are facing a lot of difficult issues in the world today and they desperately need the faith and persistence of praying grandparents to help them through.
  8. Recognize and tell them when you notice their strengths regarding their character, personalities, skills, and talents.

Having worked on a college campus for about 17 years, I can tell you that the same students who basically pushed their parents and grandparents off campus after they helped them move into their dorms; showed up in my counseling office about six weeks into the semester talking about how much they missed their mom’s hugs and their grandmother’s cooking and planning their next trip home.

Kids will drift in and out of your life during adolescence. Let them drift for a while and welcome them with open arms when they drift back. You’ll be continuing to invest in their lives and setting the stage for a healthy, fulfilling relationship in the future.

5 thoughts on “Dealing with Teenage Grandchildren’s Relational Drifting”

  1. DeeAnn M Bartkey

    Hi Joannie and the.person that sent in this question,

    Joanne your advise is spot on. My eldest daughter is a single Mom and she struggles with anxiety. They live several states away and every so often she will call me upset because her and my 12 year old egarding my grandson got into an argument and she thinks that she is doing something wrong as a parent or that my grandson’s father has more money than her so he can buy my grandson all the newest tech gadgets and take him on really big trips. I always tell her exactly what Joannie is saying to you, they will appreciate the time you spend with them and they may be grown and out of the house before they realize it. Two of my children have come and thanked for the time I took with them. The lavish stuff is just a phase. They will remember more than anything else is time with you, even if it is a phone call or when you are together, a nice walk outside and talking, or going to a park. Blessings to you all and your families! God bless!

  2. For those of us with grandchildren in these age brackets but are long distance grandparents and cannot attend events. Do you have additional advice?
    My grandchild is not a reader (by choice) nor does he like to talk on the phone or FaceTime. The thing he gets his enjoyment from is his video games. I do not know how to compete with that.
    We were very close until I had to move home 3 years ago. I do pray for him, I just wish I knew what else I could do.

    1. Hi DeeAnn, My 4 grandchildren, aged 11-16, are on their screens it seems continually. I decided if I couldn’t beat them, I’d join them. So occasionally, I sit there with them + have a play with whatever game they’re doing. Of course, I’m completely gumby compared to their dexterity, but it doesn’t matter + at least makes a little bit of interaction.

  3. Now and then I screenshot a meaningful meme from Facebook and text it to my long-distance 15-year-old grand-daughter. It does not require an answer from her, but it is inspirational and it lets her know I’m thinking about her and loving her and keeping in touch. She knows I’m there if she needs me. A couple times she has reached out when she’s really upset and I have been able to help her.

  4. When my long-distance 15-year-old grand-daughter started becoming distant, she would only respond to me (on video calls) with, “yes”, “no”, “uh huh”, I finally said to her: “Don’t you have ANYTHING else to say?” She responded with: “Well, Grandma, I’m sure you don’t want to hear about all the drama at school.” I responded with: “Oh, I LOOOVE drama! Tell me all about it!” She went on to talk non-stop for over an hour! Now when I call her, I don’t even need to ask her anything; she starts right in talking and can go on indefinitely until I start yawning and telling her I need to go to bed! What started out as teenage distance has turned into a delightful relationship. I have become the person in her life who has the time and interest to listen to her talk non-stop. I LOVE being that person! Yes, we can still have a special niche in their lives if we carefully seek it out. Don’t force it but don’t give up either. Find that special role you can play. Even if it’s just texting an inspirational quote now and then. When they come out of this stage, you will still be there, vivid in their memory, still an important part of their lives.

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