Want to have easy conversations with your young grandkids? Here are some tips from Susan M. Kettmann, author of The 12 Rules of Grandparenting: A New Look at Traditional Roles and How to Break Them:
1. Give your full attention. Make direct eye contact that draws the child to you, and screen out interruptions (silence your phone; turn off the TV).
2. Try not to dominate. At least half of any conversations with grandchildren should be spent listening. Instead of answering all their questions, search for answers together so they can share the joy of discovery.
3. Take your cues from the child. Even if the child chatters on about things you aren’t really interested in, get comfortable and make what they say a priority.
4. Be available to talk when the child wants to. A child reaching out offers you precious moments that may never come at a more “convenient” time. If it’s impossible to talk when the child wants to, find a time as soon as possible.
5. Schedule “do-nothing” time. Make time to take a walk, water plants outside or pursue other low-key, unhurried activities where the words can flow.
6. Ask your grandchild to teach you or assist you with something so they feel useful and grown up. You could ask them to read a map for you or rearrange a cupboard. And always say thanks.
7. Ask older grandchildren for their opinions on current issues like religion, politics, drugs or violence. Question them about the consequences of what they say so they learn to process thoughts from start to finish.
Ed. note: This article appeared in the December 2004/January 2005 issue of GRAND.