Ah, teenagers. You, grandma, were once a teenager yourself, and remember when your kids were teens and what a whirlwind time it was!
Now your sweet grandchild is a teenager experiencing all the growing pains that come with it. Depending on your grandchild’s demeanor, you may not even notice a difference in their personality. However, if you are reading this, there is a good chance you have seen changes in your teenage grandchild and are wondering how to understand and interact with them.
To help you combat these often turbulent adolescent years, I have compiled this guide for understanding your teenage grandchildren, which I hope will reassure you and help you further grow your bond.
First and foremost, why are teenagers the way they are?
Do you remember when your grandchild would excitedly wait for you at the door when you visited? Now you are lucky if their 16-year-old self will even acknowledge you when you say hi! What gives?
In short: They’re a walking contradiction. They want independence, yet they crave attention. They want to be treated like adults but still act like children. It’s like trying to tame a wild animal, but it’s a hormonal teenager instead of a lion.
All jokes aside, teenagers have A LOT going on – both with internal changes plus things like school, friends, and figuring out who they are.
While they may not run and jump into your arms like they did when they were 5, they still love you – they just show it differently now (as painful as that is).
Please don’t take it personally, grandma!
Communicating with your teenage grandchild
It is a WHOLE new ballgame for today’s teenagers – even more so from when our kids were teens. There’s social media, phones, and communication overload, not to mention new levels of peer pressure and the pains of navigating a post-Covid world. Add in trying to figure out plans, lack of sleep, and balancing everything, and you have a recipe for one unrelatable grandchild.
The key to communicating with your teenage grandchild is to listen and let them take the lead – often, they need someone who will listen.
Think about it: They are getting lectured by their parents, teachers, and society, so the last thing they need is to have it coming from another direction. (I hope this doesn’t come off as condescending to my fellow grandmas – it is just what many friends and myself have found works the best.)
Now I know what you are thinking: How am I supposed to listen to my teenage grandchild when they hardly even talk to me? Shoot them a text or call them and let them know you are thinking of them and want to see how they are. Tell them how proud you are of them and the good person they have become. In a few days, follow up with an invitation to dinner at their favorite restaurant or invite them to do an activity with you (bowling, movie, etc.).
The key is not to push, be supportive, and listen. You have always been their biggest cheerleader, and things don’t have to change just because they are teens!
10 Easy Ways to Bond with Your Teenage Grandchild
And now for the meat and potatoes part of this guide: How are you supposed to bond with someone you have virtually nothing in common with? I’m glad you asked, as there are many fun ways to build your bond and create a thriving relationship, including:
Send snail mail
You sent Valentine’s and Easter cards when they were little, so why stop now? Keep sending those cards plus extra throughout the year to let them know you are thinking of them and are proud of everything they do.
Give them an heirloom while you are still around
Too often, we save special things to gift our loved ones after we are gone. But why? If you plan to pass down a special necklace or pocketwatch to your granddaughter or grandson, do it now so they know you trust them and so you can tell them more about it and its significance.
Invite them to a class
There is no better way to bond than by learning something new together, whether it be cooking, crafting, or something of the like! Invite your grandchild to a class with you – not only will you both learn a new trait, but you will grow your bond even more.
Even if they don’t respond half the time, keep sending those texts or leaving those voicemails saying you love them and are thinking of them. It means more to your grandkids than they may let on.
Start or maintain traditions
If you started a tradition with your grandchild when they were young, keep it going, as it is a constant in their life that they mentally and emotionally need. No family tradition yet? No problem, as there is never a wrong time to begin! (Pancakes the first Saturday of every month, anyone?)
Take a vacation or staycation
If you and your grandchild could use a change of scenery, a vacation or staycation may be just the ticket! This can be as elaborate as hopping on a plane or as laid back as driving to a nearby hotel/exploring new-to-you spots around your own town.
Find their love language and speak to it
I did a piece on love languages because there is something to it, as we all give and receive love via gifts, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and/or acts of service. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you tap into your grandchild’s!
Use U.S.E.? What does it mean?! U.S.E. stands for:
Understanding that comes from listening
Spend quality time and participate in activities together
Encourage them to try new things and show interest in what they are doing
Build their confidence and self-esteem
Often, teens lack confidence and self-esteem thanks to physical changes, peers, and self-perception. Without being too obvious, try to ramp up the compliments. Remind them of how talented they are at [insert your grandchild’s talent here] and how gifted they are at XYZ. When you do this, you will not only be building them up but also your relationship. (If you don’t see them often, make a point to send them encouraging texts, notes, or phone calls.)
Show up for them as much as possible
If you live nearby, attend as many of your grandchild’s activities (sports, performances, etc.) as possible and be their loudest cheerleader. If you don’t live nearby, call them before or after their activity, send flowers, or do something that shows them you are thinking about them and rooting for them from afar.
Additional Resources for Understanding and Bonding with Teens
- Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
- The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen
- Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter by Lucie Hemmen
- Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour
- Social Anxiety Relief for Teens: A Step-by-Step CBT Guide to Feel Confident and Comfortable in Any Situation by Bridget Flynn Walker, Ph.D.
- The Five Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman
- Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your Teens and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.
- Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans: How to Decode Their Behavior, Develop Unshakable Trust, and Raise a Respectable Adult by Josh Shipp
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
Additionally, some online resources for parenting teenagers include:
As your grandchildren grow, your relationship will continue to evolve, just like it did with your children (and just like it did with you and your parents). If we had it our way, our grandchildren would remain little and innocent forever, but sadly, this isn’t a reality. However, just because they are teenagers doesn’t mean you can’t still have an excellent relationship with them!
Keep on loving them, grandma! Between your love for them and these suggestions, I believe that your grandchild’s teen years will be some of your favorites!