When grandchildren are young, their grandparents are boon companions, always ready for a walk to the park and never tiring of playing the same game over and over. Around the time that they become tweens, however, grandchildren often seem to lose interest in their grandparents. They may stop wanting to come over, to talk to us, to listen to us.
Have we suddenly become boring? The answer is a little more complex than that.
Many tweens exhibit a rapid change in interests. Most tweens are interested in these topics:
- Movies and TV
- Video games
- Social networking (when allowed by parents)
If grandparents devalue their interests or their tastes, grandchildren will become hesitant to share. Maybe you don't approve of the music your grandchildren listen to, or you think that their clothes are weird. It's wise to keep an open mind and let the parents set the boundaries. It's also wise to find something to like. If you can't stomach one of your grandchild's favorite recording artists, look for one that you can both appreciate. Negativity is a huge turnoff to tweens and teens.
Some grandparents go overboard in the opposite direction, by trying to be cool and embracing all of their grandchildren's interests. Trying too hard is rarely convincing.
The change in your grandchild's interests means that you may have to find different things to do together.
Instead of going hiking, for example, you may have to go to the mall.
Developing a Social Life
If your grandchildren seem to find you boring, it may be because they are suddenly much more interested in their peers.
All children have a social life of sorts, but it becomes much more important during the preteen years.
To stay engaged with your grandchildren during this period, try to keep up with their friends. Even if you have never met Kayla or Katelyn or Krystal, knowing something about them (and keeping them straight!) can earn you points with a grandchild.
If you do get a chance to meet the aforementioned friends, avoid any behavior that might embarrass your grandchild. Be yourself, but make it a slightly toned-down version of yourself.
These strategies will ensure that your grandchildren are comfortable sharing their social relationships with you. They may even ask you for advice! At the very least, you'll provide a venue for them to explore their feelings.
If you do share insights and advice with your grandchildren, be careful. Only in the most extreme circumstances should you steer a grandchild in a direction that parents would not choose for them.
Sharing Your Interests
We are often advised to share our passions with our grandchildren, and that is good advice -- up to a point. If sharing your interest in art means spending a couple of hours wandering around an art museum with a grandchild, topped off with ice cream cones, that's cool. But subjecting a grandchild who is only marginally interested to a long explanation of abstract expressionism?
That's not so cool.
Other topics that may not interest your grandchild include:
- Your health concerns: It's okay to keep the grandchildren up to date, but they probably neither want nor need the details.
- The good old days: Most grandchildren love stories about your childhood and youth, as long as they are short and preferably either humorous or dramatic. Do they want to hear that hamburgers only cost a quarter or that you had to walk two miles to school? Probably not.
- Your friends: I know that I said that you should be interested in their friends. Isn't it fair to expect them to be interested in yours? In a word, no. If they meet your friends, they should be polite and personable. But it's not realistic to expect most tweens to be interested in the doings of older people that they've never met. Of course, if you have a friend who can get the grandkids on a movie set or who can get great concert tickets, they may be interested in that friend.
As your grandchildren become teens, they may find you interesting once again, especially if you know about cars or indie movies or classic rock-and-roll. The downside is that as teens they are less likely to have time to spend with you. That's when you step up your technological skills to stay connected to your grandchildren:
- Learn to text as well as how to Skype or FaceTime, if you're not already conversant in these skills.
- Find out what social networks your grandchildren use. Then ask if it's cool if you join them on those networks. Don't be hurt if they say no. If they say yes, don't do anything that would embarrass them. (For examples, see this article: 10 Facebook No-Nos for Grandparents. Most of these warnings also apply to other networks.)
Blasting Back to the Past
Even tweens and teens get nostalgic for the past. Occasionally your grandchildren will regress a bit, wanting to do things that they did when they were much younger, such as watching favorite children's movies or playing simple board games. That's just a way of escaping stress. They may especially enjoy these activities at a grandparent's house, where they will not be exposed to possible derision from peers and siblings.
I love it when this happens. It means that my grandchildren treasure their childhood times with me. Also, it just might mean that I'm not boring.