If you and your grandkids can’t seem to connect and have fun, these common sense helpful hints could help set things right.
1. Use “I” statements
“I” statements are simple expressions designed to end differences of opinion between you and your grandchild. “I” statements can be used for positive as well as negative behavior. Make “I” statements a part of your normal dealings with your grandchildren.
“It makes me very sad when I see you hit your brother…I become unhappy when I see you are not listening to me…I really like it when you hug your sister…”
2. Look at the person who is speaking
Physical distance between you and the child when you are talking makes a difference in the child’s ability to pay attention. Whenever you are trying to make a point, physically get the child close to you and have them look into your eyes.
3. Plan all activities carefully
Discuss with the child what he or she would like to do. Give careful thought to the age appropriateness of the activities before you begin. This is not to say you can’t do things compulsively but it’s often better to have a plan. Giving children choices will increase their self-love.
4. Spend time alone with each grandchild
When possible, work with only one grandchild at a time. Many grandparents find it difficult to work with more than one grandchild at a time. This is not unusual and nothing to be ashamed of. We all know how good it feels to have someone important give his or her undivided attention.
5. All rules need to be consistent with parents’ wishes
Remember to support the parents and the entire activity will go much smoother. Don’t be afraid to restate the rules as many times as necessary. Writing the rules and posting them or bringing them along is a good idea. If a rule is violated during the activity, ask the child to read the rules again.
6. Avoid showing favoritism
Grandfathers can relate to girls as well as boys. Children enjoy spending time with both grandparents.
7. Allow time to ask questions
The surest way to know if a grandchild understands is to ask questions. Everything may be crystal clear to you but it’s more important that it is also clear to your grandchild.
8. Have fun!
There is no substitute for good old-fashioned belly laughs. It’s good for you, your grandchild and your relationship. Share with your grandchild how excited you are about being with them.
Parents enjoy a much deserved break. The children enjoy getting away from their parents for even short periods of time and grandparents like the idea of being part of a very important relationship. ■
Don Schmitz is a popular speaker and writer on fostering relationships between parents and grandparents for the benefit of the grandchildren. He is the founder of The Grandkids and me Foundation, which includes Grandparent Camps. He is the author of The New Face of Grandparenting . . . Why Parents Need Their Own Parents. Don is a father to three sons and to nine grandchildren. He holds graduate degrees in Education, Administration and Human development. For more information contact Don Don@grandkidsandme.com.
Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in July-August 2006