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Be a Grandparent Who Bridges the Gap to Teens

Many grandparents feel like there’s a huge distance separating them from their teenaged grandchildren. It was easier to connect when they were young. The challenge is to remain relevant and engaged when your grandkids become teens. It may be the hardest time, but it’s also the most important time. And there are ways to bridge the cultural, social, and relational gaps! In this article, I’ll share some helpful tips for connecting with your grandkids, regardless of generational or physical distance.

When They’re Looking for Someone to Talk to, Show Up!

In your teen’s culture there lots of voices, but a shortage of people who actually listen. God has placed you in your grandchild’s life because they need you desperately. This is your chance to come alongside and listen to his heart. You may be the one place they feel heard and appreciated. It’s normal for teenagers to expand their social circle as they get older, but if you’re not actively engaged with them, you’ll be sluffed off during these critical years. So, make time to listen. Don’t put your grandkid off when they want to talk. Now is the time!

Listen to What They Have to Say

It may seem obvious that you should listen to what your grandchild is saying. But it’s surprisingly easy to tune them out and think about something else. While they are speaking, don’t plan your next lecture or think over your favorite story. Actively engage in the conversation that they want to have. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, you should allow your grandkid to work out his thoughts with you. He is trying to fit the beliefs he grew up with into the world he sees around him. And you can help by guiding him with questions that encourage him to think through these challenging issues. As you listen, you earn the right to speak into their lives, at the right time.

Let Go of the Need to Quarrel

I can’t say it enough: Love your grandchildren in spite of your differences! What you believe may be radically different from what your grandchild thinks he believes right now. But you should not allow these differences to become a barrier to your relationship. You don’t want to spend your precious time with your grandkids fighting. That includes unnecessary quarreling with their parents. Your job is to support and encourage mom and dad and be there for your grandkids. Don’t ever become a wedge between your adult children and your grandchildren. Avoid interfering with what a parent is trying to do. Instead, love your grandchild and impart your stance without offense and without losing your special relationship.

Remember That Relationship is Key

If you establish a solid relationship where you are a trusted source of wisdom, you will be invited to share what you know. You can be a spark of light when your teen grandchildren are in a dark night. But, if you haven’t built the relationship first, I doubt you will be invited to come in and share your opinion and make much of a difference. The bottom line is this: Your relationship is first and foremost.

Share Your Wisdom … But Wait for the Right Moment

No one wants to hear unsolicited advice. Instead, ask questions. Eventually, your grandkids will understand that asking questions is a great way to have a conversation. As you listen to them hopefully, your grandchilds will ask, “What do you think?”  Keep in mind, even when you’re asked to share your opinion, sometimes it’s wise to wait. It may be a great time to share your wisdom or it may not. This strategy takes time, but it’s worth it!

Do Things Together

Many families are separated by physical distance. But here’s the reality. Stop waiting until you have the time, money, and energy to spend time together. You’re not taking any of your money with you. Spend it on opportunities to connect with your grandkids. Your grandkids need you now.

Conclusion Hey grandparents and moms and dads … your teens need grandparents in their lives, not to buy things and take pictures, but to be involved in their lives and share the wisdom and insights they possess. As a grandparent, you have the ability to influence, if you remain engaged and relevant. Don’t just dump everything on them whenever you want. Listen and then share what you’ve gathered through your own observations, your own reflections, and your own experience. It’s called wisdom. Guide your discussion based on what they want to talk about. Create a place of rest for their weary souls. Quit focusing on rules and emphasize the relationship. Your legacy will not be determined by what you leave in their bank account, but by what you deposited in their hearts. You have a place––it’s a very important one.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.