Long Distance Grandmother: How to Stay Close to Distant Grandchildren
The Nanas and Papas: A Boomer’s Guide to Grandparenting
can enrich a teenager's life in many ways. The problem is that many
teens find visits to grandparents dull and try to avoid spending time
In our house, every Thursday is Grandma Day. Whether our teens feel
like it or not, they go to spend the day with Grandma. We generally
take her shopping, so they object somewhat less than they might otherwise.
If a grandparent is older and perhaps in poor health or in a poor
mental state, it is important to help your teen learn who their grandparent
was in younger days. They may have no memory of the grandparent as
anything more than she is right now. Show your teens pictures of their
grandparents as young people and tell them the stories you know about
their childhoods, teen years and young adult years. It can be surprising
to teens that a frail grandparent was once homecoming queen, an athlete
or an artist.
If the grandparent is able to share her own life with the teen, ask
your teens to assist in creating a genealogy of the family, including
the life story of their grandparent. As a family, create a list of
questions you want to ask and then divide them into small, related
chunks. It is often difficult to cover too much ground at once, so
keep the interviews short. Children can take turns visiting the grandparent
and doing the interviews with the help of a tape recorder. Be sure
to preserve the tapes, even after the biography is written. It can
also be special to videotape the interviews, creating a memory that
will become more valuable to the teen as he gets older.
Ask grandparents to work with teens on a project. Does the grandparent
have a hobby or talent he can share with your teen? Passing on these
skills preserves a legacy, which allows the teen to someday tell his
grandchild, "My grandmother taught me to crochet and now I'm
teaching you. It's becoming a family tradition."
When a teen comes to you for advice, consider sending him to a grandparent.
Suggest that the grandparent has a better perspective on the situation--as
a parent you are too close. This can promote closeness as well as
foster self-esteem. A parent often feels compelled to be critical;
a grandparent can be accepting with no need to correct.
Instead of being the family news bearer, send your child to pass along
news himself. "Call your grandmother. She will be so excited
that you made the team. Tell her we'll take her to your first game."
Building the relationship is more difficult when the grandparent has
dementia and cannot communicate easily with the child. Help your teen
to understand the grandparent's illness and how to work with him.
Bring your teen to meetings with doctors and encourage him to ask
questions. Your teen can participate in the life of this grandparent
through service. Encourage him to bring or make decorations and gifts
to give the grandparent-photos and drawings for the nursing home walls,
collages, poems and stories to read and display. Help your teen plan
things to talk about-anything of interest to him. Explain that it
is possible the grandparent understands more than is believed. This
is also true of grandparents who are unconscious. Teens can also bring
books to read to their grandparent, or photo albums to share together.
Have your teen demonstrate a talent to his grandparent and talk about
If a grandparent lives far away, here are some suggestions:
purchasing a computer for the grandparent who does not have one. Hook
them to the Internet as a gift and have the teen keep in touch through
email and chat rooms.
- Set up
a private web page where your teen and the grandparent can each have
a section in which to display pictures, messages, stories and more.
Splurge on telephone calls.
- Mail school
papers, newspaper clippings and other items to the grandparent. Encourage
your teen to write to his grandparents--using real paper and pencils.
In this day of email, that is probably a unique educational experience.
If you home
school, consider having the grandparents teach a mini-class or discuss
recent history with your teen. Reading about World War II is interesting...
talking to a grandparent who lived through it is even better.
Ask teenagers to “serve” their grandparents. We love those
we serve. Teens can run errands using their brand new driver's license
prepare food, clean house and walk with a frail relative. Encourage
them to watch for opportunities to serve, and teach them how to do it
gracefully and cheerfully. Remind them that it is important for the
relative to feel that the child is happy to serve.
Don't allow your teen to grow up wishing he had known his grandparents
better. He does not have to initially think they are cool, but with
time and service, a close relationship can develop between them.
This article first appeared on Suite101.com
(http://www.suite101.com) and was reproduced with permission from the