Respect key to grandchildren

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
As parenting columnist Ian Munro writes, keeping your mouth shut and your ears open can do wonders for your grandchildren and their parents.

A relationship with adolescent grandchildren can be tremendously rewarding. Their growing maturity gives you the opportunity to establish a more adult relationship with them than their parents might manage.

A reader, who doesn't see his grandson all that often because of distance, is struggling to engage with the teenager he now needs to relate to.

He also has some painful memories from the grandson's father's teenage years.

Try to put them aside, however much the grandson might remind you of his father. Treat him as his own person. Leave the parenting to his father and mother.

The key to relating to teenaged grandchildren is to respect their age.

Let the cute grandchild go and accept the person you see in front of you. Respect them and they will respect you and, when they ask, generally respect your advice.

At times, they can seem distant and ''staunch'', but they still need time, love and acceptance as they figure out where they fit in the scheme of things.

Grandparents are ideally suited to helping this process. They're family and safe and generally not involved in having to deal with the day-to-day head-butting and boundary-pushing.

If you can keep your mouth shut and ears open (in other words be a non-judgemental listener and supporter), you will be providing an invaluable service to your grandchildren and their parents.

You might well find them confiding in you and discussing things they wouldn't discuss with their parents. You might also have the opportunity to offer advice that's listened to, whereas if it came from their parents, it could well be ignored.

At times, teenagers appear to have little to say. You'll probably need to get the conversation going, but don't push it.

Your silent company watching television, walking or shopping can be enough.

Avoid trying to tease them into conversation. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to this. Be a tease-free zone until they start to have you on, then you can probably get away with it, although some can give it before they are ready to receive.

Take care to keep your immediate responses in check during conversation. Largely listen. All conversation should be treated as confidential unless there's a personal safety issue.

To finish, here's an American idea: a cousins' camp.

Take a long weekend, a camping environment, all the cousins over 6 and as many of their grandparents as you can.

Depending on the numbers, it can take quite a bit of planning to have a range of age-related activities. Leave down-time for general interaction and play, roster help with meals and give the older cousins some leadership roles.

I'm told it can be hard work but very rewarding.

And their parents get the house to themselves for the weekend.


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