When they were babies and toddlers, conversation with Grands was babytalk. Easy to manage. As they hit their stride as youngsters, we began to have more challenging but interesting conversations with them-- chats about ideas, family history, life, school, friends. They didn't sit on our laps anymore, but we could have heart-to-hearts.
But oh those teen years. Their parents--our grown children--are having their own difficulties communicating. One friend whose Grands are in high school said she has a better relationship with them now than when they were younger: she is now the place they come to complain about the parents and, since this woman doesn't get along with her daughter in law, find a "us against them" camaraderie.
Most of us, though, just want to keep the lines of normal communication open, without getting in between our grown children and their children. Some of us find the car a perfect place to chat--with eye contact only through the rear view mirror. Seems to free them up to chat more freely. Or for us to eavesdrop on conversations they have with their friends.
But that doesn't address the real issue: How to have a meaninful conversation with our Grands and to reassure them that we are there for them. A site called babysitting.net recently posted ten tips on how to talk to your teen age child. Most of the tips are for the parents, but a few are helpful for those of us floundering around and trying to figure out how to talk to our verge-of-adulthood, hormone-driven Grands.
Here are a few of the tips, which I've amended for grandparents:
Ask open-ended questions. Stay away from asking questions like, “How was your day?” The answer will most likely be a one word answer. Instead, say something like, “Tell me about your day.”
Talk about topics your Grand likes. Sports, if he or she is into athletics. (Brief yourself on whatever sport they're into.) Or movies. Or, if you're really brave, music.
Listen more than you speak. You don't have to fill every idle moment with chitchat. Leave some silence to give them a chance to fill it with conversation.
Don't try to fix them. Don't jump in and offer advice until it's asked for. The only thing you should do while your Grand is talking is nod and say the occasional "hmmm" or "I see" to indicate you are actively listening.
Only offer an opinion if your Grand asks for it. Telling your Grands what you would do isn’t going to help. If your Grand asks for advice, start by asking what they've considered so far. This will give you an idea of where their head is and you can act accordingly. Lectures? Don't go there.