Your Teen Grandchild: 5 Ways to Connect in Their World

Ages:
Ages 9+

The best way to connect with teens is to seek to understand what they like and to demonstrate a genuine interest in them. A 16-year-old put it best: “Instead of just seeing one another as grandparent and grandchild, get to know each other as individuals, rather than your blood relative.”

When grandparents approach their teen grandchild’s world with deep interest — even wonder and amazement — teens are more inclined to open up and connect. The activities below are ways you can connect to your teen grandchild and deepen your relationship with them.

1. Technology Today

Many teens’ lives revolve around technology, so use that as a jumping-off point to talk about their life. Ask your grandchild to:

    • Share with you — and perhaps show you — what social media they use and how it connects them to their friends.
    • Choose a game — such as Scrabble, Minecraft, or Trivia Crack — they would like to play with you on the computer, especially if you live at a distance from one another.
    • Point out what technology they suggest you yourself learn that might be fun or of benefit to you.

2. Volunteering Together and Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)

Most teenagers have school volunteering or service requirements. Ask your grandchild if they have to complete a certain number of volunteer hours, the project or cause they have adopted, and how they hope to make a difference. Find out how you might help. For example, your teen might cook for a cause, make custom cards, work with rescue animals, collect items for a clothing or toiletry drive, or plant gardens in underserved communities. You might help with admin, making calls, delivery, or by pitching in physically.

If you are active in an organization, you can ask if your grandchild would be interested in hearing about your volunteer work or how you benefited from someone volunteering their services to help you or your family. 

If your grandkids are not required to volunteer, together identify a cause that interests you both and an organization that does that type of work. Find out what you can do to help the organization. Make a date and go. Afterwards, talk about your experience, the cause itself, how it felt to do the work, and how what you did would be considered gemilut hasadim (an act of lovingkindness) or tikkun olam (repairing the world). Then plan your next visit or session.

If you live at a distance from your teen, you can do the same steps as above — planning and researching together — but each of you would find and volunteer at a similar organization in your own community.

3. Culinary Adventure

Most teens love to eat. And to explore. How about merging these two interests by enjoying a culinary experience with your teen grandchild? Any kind of cooking together may be fun for your teen. Here are some more cooking ideas.

    • Choose a Jewish community in a different part of the country or world. Decide on a Jewish holiday and find a recipe that varies depending on where one lives or one’s background. For example, charoset for Passover can be very different for people of Ashkenazi or Sephardi descent. Make one or two different recipes. Or just try foreign recipes together!
    • Choose a favorite family recipe and modify it to your and your grandchild’s liking. Give it a new name!
    • Create a family recipe cookbook. Here’s how.

4. Shows and Movies

Teens endlessly consume content on YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming sites. The shows, movies, and YouTube and TikTok videos they watch provide a small window of insight into what they are interested in.

    • Ask your teen grandchild to tell you what shows and movies they like to watch and how they watch (phone, iPad, TV, computer).
    • Ask if they would be comfortable watching something with you and, if so, watch together then chat about it. Some streaming channels offer a “watch party” option where you can sync the playback across accounts and watch in separate locations at the same time, chatting on screen. Here’s one example.

5. Family Stories

Many kids love hearing stories about when their parents were young. You can tell those stories from first-hand experience! Here is some research into why sharing family stories is good for your grandchildren.

The most meaningful way to connect with your grandchild is to ask what they like and what they would like to do with you. It can be as simple as going out to eat, going shopping, shooting hoops or playing any sport together, taking a walk, exercising together, or playing a board game. The experiences should be natural and authentic. 

You might say to your teen, “I want to be with you. Tell me when it suits you and what you want to do. I’m available, I’m here, even if we’re just quietly together in the same room or on screen, each doing our own work.”

Enter your teen grandchild’s world and enjoy all that you learn through the process. It will likely be meaningful for both of you.

Erica Hruby is a tween-teen expert with over 25 years of professional experience working directly with parents and tweens-teens in community, academic, and residential environments. Erica is the founder of Anchored Parenting, LLC. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Visit www.anchoredparenting.org

Photographs by Stephanie Fink

Special thanks to our teen reviewers Hannah Gutnick and Sage Vogelstein

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