For the most part, the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is thought of as nothing but positive.
Grandparents often state they enjoy grandparenting more than they did parenting their own children, and the younger generation can benefit from the wisdom of their elders and enrich their own relationships by doing all they can to be there for the older people in their lives.
The generational split
However, despite the common consensus, it is a simple fact that sometimes, the grandparent-grandchild relationship isn’t quite so wonderful.
When examined outside of the standard stereotypes regarding this relationship, this is unsurprising. Grandparents and grandchildren are from very different generations, which likely means they will have radically different views on a wide range of subjects.
We know, for example, that there is a wide age divide in political opinions, and most of us will have have felt a flicker of bemusement when an older relative expresses any view that we deem to be a little on the old-fashioned side.
As a result of these issues, sometimes, the grandparent-grandchild relationship can be fraught and difficult to navigate.
While there is undoubtedly a huge amount of love from both parties, actually being able to spend beneficial, enjoyable time with elderly relatives can sometimes be difficult.
As well as a simple generational divide in attitude and opinions, there are inevitable complicating factors that can influence the grandparent-grandchild dynamic.
Distance, for example, can be hugely problematic; the millennial generation are more likely to need to move further afield in search of job opportunities, which can mean that contact with grandparents is more sporadic that either would like.
In addition, there are health issues to consider, with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia often requiring expert memory care from professionals to manage. For the younger generation, relating to and enjoying a relationship with a grandparent can be inherently difficult.
Finally, there is also the simple fact that sometimes, two personalities just don’t gel well together; being related to one another does reduce the chances of this problem occurring. Of course, the fact that your personalities don’t match doesn’t diminish the genuine love between a grandparent and grandchild, but it can make liking one another difficult.
Building the relationship
In a world where the grandparent-grandchild relationship is often portrayed as being nothing but beneficial, it is important to recognize the challenges this relationship can experience.
Not doing so can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for both parties; society, TV shows, and movies have consistently told them their relationship should be naturally wonderful – if it isn’t, this can be distressing.
However, it is also important to see these challenges as just that: challenges, which can be addressed, acted upon, and ultimately changed. If you wish to improve your relationship with an elderly relative, let’s explore the strategies you may want to consider.
#1 – Avoid controversial topics
If you and your grandparent disagree on a particular topic, then simply avoid this topic, especially if you are never going to change one another’s minds.
It’s completely understandable that you will see the world differently, and that’s okay: you can respect one another’s right to an opinion, acknowledge the stalemate, and then leave be.
#2 – Find something that you can share
Strong grandparent-grandchild relationships are built on a foundation of sharing a common bond. It is often assumed that all this bond needs to be is the one you inherently share – the family bond – but, in many cases, this alone is not enough to sustain a positive relationship
Rather than hoping the simple fact you are related is enough to create a strong bond between you and your grandparents, find a hobby that interests you both: painting, astronomy, jigsaw puzzles, or just a TV show you both enjoy – provided you are both equally interested and engaged with the topic, it can become something you do together, and also serves to supply endless conversational fodder.
Furthermore, if your grandparent has memory issues, you may find it particularly useful to focus on activities that are known to be beneficial and stimulating for people living with these conditions.
#3 – Prioritize physical visits
While modern technology has allowed the world to be more connected than ever before, the older generation are more likely to place weight and importance on actual physical visits. As a child of the modern age, you may not share this perception: most of us think a text message is as good, if not preferable, to an actual conversation on the phone or in-person.
Your grandparents, however, may disagree; they may be tech-savvy and capable of communicating via these methods, but that doesn’t mean it’s their preference. If you can visit in person to ask how they are rather than sending an email, then do so.
#4 – Ask them to use technology on your behalf
Of course, this relationship goes both ways. Many grandchildren find themselves frustrated when their grandparents express a desire to speak to them more, but refuse to use modern technology to do it.
If a physical visit isn’t feasible – or at least isn’t feasible with the frequency they would prefer – then it is reasonable to ask them to use modern tech to enhance the lines of communication between you.
While the age of older people being afraid of technology is somewhat behind us – today’s 60 year old has been using the internet for 20 years at this point – there can still be a sense of mistrust for newer services such as social media, especially when news and information sources rarely have anything positive to say about these networks.
Instead, opt for video chatting via Skype; it’s relatively easy to show your grandparents how to use these services, and they feel more ‘personal’ than relying on text-based communication at all.
If your relationship with your grandparents has struggled to bridge the generation gap in the past, then you may find the tips above can help you to forge a more positive future with your loved one.