Grandparents and other older adults can play an important role in our children’s lives, especially if we help them.

We know there are great benefits for both children and “older generations” when they intentionally build relationships together. History is passed down, life lessons are discussed, new crafts and music are introduced . . . and young people begin to see their place in the generational community.

Grandparents sometimes live far away, so direct communication can be more difficult, and older people who might step in to intergenerational relationships are sometimes shy about taking the opportunity. It’s worth your parenting efforts to make these rich intergenerational relationships happen.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Sending e-mail, telephone calls, handwritten cards, photos, children’s art, and personal letters are all wonderful ways to stay connected with your children’s grandparents. If you set a family expectation for connecting—perhaps on a monthly or weekly basis—you model intergenerational respect and love to your children.
    • Visit grandparenting Web sites on the Internet such as to find ideas and tips for keeping your kids and their grandparents connected.
    • Share your favorite parenting books, blogs, or other resources with your children’s grandparents to help them get a sense of your parenting philosophy and approach. Information and advice available to parents today is much different from what previous generations were given.
    • Divorce or death of a spouse can cause a child to lose not only one parent, but grandparents as well. Where good relationships existed with grandparents, work to maintain those connections.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Talk to your children’s grandparents about your hopes for their relationship with your children, including desired frequency of contact between them and your kids. Share your thoughts, and then listen carefully to theirs.
    • Help your children’s grandparents learn how to use car seats for your kids; it’s possible that they’ve never used one before.
    • If you’re comfortable doing so, ask your children’s grandparents to baby-sit occasionally. They may love it, and you may get a much-needed break. If grandparents need extra income and you can afford it, pay them what you’d pay a regular sitter.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Be clear about your family rules so that grandparents and others can respond consistently to your children’s behavior.
    • Talk with your kids about what they like and dislike about their time with their grandparents. Use that information to make suggestions for things they can do together.
    • If intergenerational relationships sound intriguing, look around in your neighborhood, at the YMCA, or within your faith community for older adults who might enjoy taking on a grandparent role with your children. The relationship doesn’t need to be long term to have positive results.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Help your children and their grandparents find a class or program to participate in together, or identify a craft or skill they can both share.
    • Organize a trivia game with intergenerational teams.
    • Sharing favorite music from many generations is a great way to share life stories as well.
    • Suggest that your children’s grandparents learn about new brain development research so that they have a sense of what’s going on in the teen brain. Two good resources are WHY Do they Act that Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by David Walsh, Ph.D., and Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Please Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony Wolf, Ph.D.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Encourage grandparents to pull out their old photos. Work together with your teen to make a photo album, collage, or scrapbook, or have youth tape family stories so they aren’t lost from the family history.
    • Suggest that your teens’ grandparents recommend books for them to read and discuss.
    • Service projects that are short term are great ways for kids and grandparents to share time (stocking food shelves, delivering Meals on Wheels, collecting school supplies for fall school drives).
  • It is normal for your teen’s social life to seem more important to them than visits with family. Invite them to help you plan a family gathering and talk about the importance of family connections. Model the importance of connection by your own interactions with your child’s grandparents.

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