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Talking to Your Teen Grandchild: Do You Know How?

Teens seem like they speak a different language. They dress in trendy clothing and spend a lot of time connecting to electronic devices. They also face different challenges and problems than you did at their age. Despite their different experiences, connections between teens and their grandparents are important. Grandparents can offer love, experience, and reason to teens. And they can do this without the judgment that often happens between teens and their parents.

Your Advantage

There is an advantage to being a grandparent. Grandparents do not feel the same need to develop a child as parents do. Because of this position, you can listen, offer sympathy, and help them open up. Grandparents also often have more time to sit and listen than a busy parent does.

Learn to Relate

The key to a good relationship with your teenage grandchild is respect. It helps to remember that teens want independence. They often pull away when adults keep telling them what to do. Think about how often you correct, criticize, or direct your grandchild. If it is more than 50% of the time, back off. Spend equal time connecting. Here are some tips.

Take the Time to Listen

Perhaps you can talk to your grandkids for hours on end. This does not mean that you are a good at conversation. You need to be able to listen, too. Seek to understand what is going on with them. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Express interest in the teens’ activities, music, and friends.

Your grandkids may seem to belong to a different world. But you can still connect to them. Approach them with sincere interest and an open mind. You may find they are willing to share and are pleased by your interest.

Decide When to Butt In

Sometimes, the relationship between you, your child, and your grandchild can get tricky. It is important to realize the difference between your responsibilities and those of the parent. You may need to back away from many issues. One area is discipline. However, you do have the right to set and enforce house rules when grandchildren visit your home.

Backing away does not mean you can never get involved. It means you support your son or daughter's role as a parent. Try not to dismiss a parent's authority in front of the teen. You may have concerns about your grandchild's behavior or their parent's choices. If so, talk to the parent in a private. Do this in a gentle and concerned way. Try to avoid making negative comments about a parenting decision. Also, do not suggest that your grandchild disregard the parent’s decision.

Keep a Secret or Not?

A positive relationship with your grandchild can lead to friendship. That is terrific when things are going well. But what do you do when your teen granddaughter thinks she is pregnant and asks you not to tell her parents?

It can be hard to know when to keep secrets. But your grandchild's emotional and physical safety are a priority. In situations like this, let your grandchildren know they have a choice. They can break the news to their parents, or you will do it. If they force you to do it, let them know up-front you are going to let their parents know. You may risk your friendship with the teen, but the teen’s safety has to come first.

Being There

Despite possible pitfalls, grandparenting a teen is special. Cherish it. You offer them continuity and history. You provide reassurance and comfort while your grandchild deals with life situations.

RESOURCES:

Grandparents Foundation, Inc.
http://www.grandparentsfoundation.org

Mental Health America
https://www.mhanational.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
https://cmha.ca

Government of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Getting along better by understanding individual differences. Foundation for Grandparenting website. Available at: http://grandparenting.org/resource/getting-along-better-by-understanding-individual-differences. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Grandparents as spiritual guides. Foundation for Grandparenting website. Available at: http://grandparenting.org/resource/grandparents-as-spiritual-guides. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Grandparents/grandchildren—a spiritual connection. Foundation for Grandparenting website. Available at: http://grandparenting.org/resource/grandparentsgrandchildren-a-spiritual-connection. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Grownups: grandparents and kinship carers. Raising Children website. Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/grandparents. Accessed October 11, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 10/11/2021