Teenagers. A word that can instill fear in parents and grandparents alike.
You still remember them as little kids. They adored visits with grandma and grandpa. A little bit of time together was all it took to make them happy.
Now they’ve grown up (or so they think) and you may find yourself wondering how to spend time together with them now that you’re no longer cool (nor are bubbles, coloring books or board games).
There are still plenty of things you can do with your teenage grandchildren, and they will likely remember them fondly even if they seem a little “whatever” in the moment. Here are a few things to try:
Shoulder-to-shoulder activities are those that you do side-by-side, rather than face-to-face. For example, rent a movie. You’ll be sharing time together and may have some good conversation during or after, but it’s not as much pressure (for you or them) to try to carry a long conversation. Added bonus: make popcorn together. Get creative by mixing in cheese, peanuts, chocolate or caramel.
Another shoulder-to-shoulder activity . . . make cookies together. You may think the days of baking together are long gone on the coolness factor, but eating cookies is always cool. So, making them is a good thing. And now that your grandchildren are bigger, they might have fun proving their strength by stirring the dough.
You might also try playing video games together. You don’t have to be good at it (my teen got quite a kick out of me steering off cliffs in a driving game). My mother-in-law sometimes takes on the second player role to collect coins and other treasures, while my stepson battles bad guys, this is just another good way to spend some time together.
My mother-in-law periodically snatches my teenage stepson away for “Nana Sunday.” For that afternoon, she takes him to lunch (usually at Johnny Rockets for hamburgers, shakes and fries) and a movie. Or, sometimes they go to the mall together. She has started giving him gift cards for Christmas and his birthday, which gives her an excuse to take him out to spend them. My stepson is 16 and still looks forward to Nana Sundays.
You might try lunch at their favorite restaurant, feeding ducks at a local lake, go-carts, an ice cream parlor, boardwalk arcade or a swim in your backyard pool.
Alternately, let them show off for you. Go to their soccer game or school play. Do they have a hobby? Let them show you their new skateboarding trick or the scrapbook they just made of their friends.
Ask Them What They Want to Do
If you’re unsure what they’ll enjoy during your time together, ask them. They may have a few ideas you didn’t consider. If they have trouble thinking of something, try prompting them: “Is there a movie you want to see in the theater?” or “Who serves the best pizza around here?”
Whatever you do, remember that teenagers still like attention, whether they show it or not. Be there and listen. That is what they need the most.
S.M. Hutchins is mom to a curious toddler and full-time stepmom to a teenager. She is a writer and copyeditor perpetually seeking the mystery, magic and wonder in everyday life. See more from S.M. Hutchins at www.livewonderstruck.com.