Grandparents and Teenagers: A Special Bond
By Dr. Barbara Greenberg
If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, then you are in a unique position to play a very special role in the lives of your teenage grandchildren. Most of you are also aware that the viewpoints and values of your children (the parents of your grandchildren) must factor into how you manage your relationships with your children’s children. Relationships across the board work best when everyone is on the same page.
As a grandparent, you have a variety of heartwarming opportunities to offer. Consider the following:
1. You can be playful and fun because the job of setting rules and limits is primarily that of the parents.
2. You may have the luxury of spending special and alone time with each grandchild. In these moments, you get to show each child that she is precious and special to you because of her unique essence and personality.
3. You have the wisdom of years to pass on. Share this with your grandchildren but, of course, only after making sure that you are not offering advice that is at odds with their parents’ values.
4. You are in the extraordinary position to enrich the lives of your grandchildren by helping them to understand that their parents, too, are humans and not infallible. Toward this end, consider sharing fun stories about their parents as children and showing family photos from across the years.
5. You can offer your grandchildren a safe space away from home. Every child and teenager benefits from time away from home to relax, decompress, and bask in the attention of a beloved grandparent.
There are many things that parents, too, can do to support the relationship between grandparents and teenagers so that it is beneficial for all of you. Most importantly, be clear with the grandparents about what the rules and expectations are for your children so that they don’t inadvertently undermine your parenting.
Express your gratitude to the grandparents because they not only love your kids but they also give you the enviable opportunity to get some alone or adult-only time. Even if your parents or in-laws are not your favorite people, recognize nonetheless that the relationship between grandparents and teenagers can have a very different dynamic, and encourage the connection. If you can, refrain from criticizing the grandparents in front of your children, just as you don’t want the grandparents to be critical of you.
Kindness, mutual support, and respect go a long way in terms of enhancing relationships. Being a parent is a difficult role and the support of grandparents may make your role just a bit easier.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language (Adams Media). She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website drbarbaragreenberg.com