Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at summer ideas for grandchildren from infants to age 9 that are not only full of fun but also lend themselves to speaking about God.
Now we will cover ages 10-18+ with summer ideas that will help you grow their relationship with you as well as with God.
10 – 12-Year-Olds
Ok, let’s be honest. This is the age when most grandparents start to notice a bit of a change in their grandchildren.
Depending on each grandchild’s personal rate of development, you may see signs of puberty beginning in a 10, 11, or 12-year-old child and for most, a tendency to want to be more independent and spend more time alone or with friends than with you.
While you may feel a bit sad that your grandchild is not quite as quick to hug you or snuggle up with you, this is actually a great time for children and preteens to learn how to be comfortable being alone and how to be good friends to their peers.
Most will want to spend short amounts of time with you playing games, going for walks or hikes, and sharing a meal with you and then venture off for longer times to play alone or with friends. While you are with them, share stories from your life that relate to what you are doing at the time- often with humor. Provide safe indoor and outdoor spaces for them to play alone or with friends.
Kids this age may also want to participate in activities with you for longer periods of time but tend to want to be in the same space with you rather than interacting directly with you. So, they may enjoy a day of fly fishing next to you in a river but don’t necessarily want to have to talk the whole time. Or, you may prepare a meal together and give your grandson or granddaughter a dish to prepare on their own while you prepare another dish, rather than you preparing two dishes together. By doing this, you are communicating that you still enjoy being with your grandchildren but understand their need to develop more independence.
After they have played alone or with friends, invite conversation by saying something like, “Tell me about what you were doing” or “How did things go with your friend Shannon?” If there were any problems, you can share one or two suggestions about how to respond as a good friend. You might encourage your grandchild to commit a Bible verse related to loving one another to memory.
13 – 15-Year-Olds
We all know that for most kids, hormones are in full gear by this age and that can mean lots of emotional ups and downs.
Vigorous exercise is known to be very helpful for teen boys and girls when their emotions are feeling a bit out of control. So, this is a great time to provide opportunities for your grandchildren to go for long hikes, runs, swims, or help you take care of your yard or other home projects.
This is also the age when today’s kids are drawn to sit on their computers and comb the pages of social media for hours on end. Over the past decade, this has been shown by multiple research studies to have negative effects on their physical and mental health.
So, the more time they spend outside or inside doing healthy activities, the less time they will be online and the healthier they will be. If you have them help you with yard or building projects, offer to pay them a small wage as young teens are old enough to be extremely helpful and do work that you might otherwise have to pay for, but they are not usually old enough to get a job.
The summer is also a great time for kids to take part in service projects or short-term mission trips. You can invite your grandchildren to be a part of a project you are participating in or sponsor them to go on a mission trip.
As they earn money, you can help them learn about tithing. When they participate in mission experiences, you can talk to them about the life lessons you learned while on a mission trip.
16 – 18-Year-Olds
With older teens, grandparents tend to become observers more than active participants in their grandchildren’s lives. This does not mean that you no longer interact with them but rather that you interact less often, but likely in deeper ways than when your grandchildren were younger.
Kids this age are usually busy with jobs, extracurricular activities, friends, and boyfriends or girlfriends, so if you have contact with them, it is likely to be for small periods of time. Therefore, you have to make good use of that time.
If you have cultivated a good relationship with an older teen grandchild, he or she will likely enjoy spending some time with you. Draw on your knowledge of your grandchild to invite him to do something that you know he would enjoy.
Honor the fact that the grandchild is older and more mature by including a privilege that was not previously available to her when she was younger. For example, let her drive you to a place to talk or invite him out for a late-night dinner that ends way past the curfew time for younger siblings. While together, ask open-ended questions (those that do not require a “yes” or “no” reply) or make comments that invite conversation. Then, spend most of your time listening.
Older teens are being impacted by the world around them and by what they see on social media in very significant ways. As you listen, you will probably hear some things that raise concerns for you. Resist the urge to communicate judgment and instead, empathize with your grandchild and then share times in your life when you may have had similar thoughts or experiences. Be willing to talk about your failures and how relying on God helped you to cope.
Also, don’t be put off if your grandchild doesn’t seem to be interested in your stories. Often, grandchildren will appear not to care at the time but will circle back years later to tell you how they remembered your story when they found themselves struggling with a similar issue.
Although my grandfather died before I was 17, I remembered a story he told me of failing to win a county election when I wasn’t chosen for a student council position in high school. He talked about the humility he had learned from that and how God used that humility to cultivate more compassion for others, in him.
Over 18 Years Old
Emerging young adults continue to need their grandparents to celebrate their accomplishments and provide encouragement as they seek new careers, relationships, and living situations. This is a time of dynamic change and that change can be scary at times.
The summer months provide ample time for grandparents to provide some respite from the stress of young adult life and conversations about a variety of topics of concern to them. Invite them to come visit you and offer a low-stress environment where they can rest, relax, and recharge before returning to the challenges of modern life.
This is an excellent time to talk about the importance of fellowship with other Christians and involvement in a good church to find the support they need to grow and thrive as a young adult.
Grandchildren are gifts from God that need to be appreciated and nurtured (neither require cash nor expensive gifts). Rather, they require your intentional prayers of gratitude, time spent with them, and sharing wisdom you have gained from your life and your relationship with God.