I Love You, Nana

Nurturing the grandparent-grandchild relationship.

In today’s busy world of juggling family, work and afterschool activities, it’s easy to forget the importance of your child’s relationship with his grandparents. To honor Grandparents’ Day on September 9 and strengthen your child’s bond with your parents, heed the following advice.

Create frequent dialogue.

According to Sue Johnson and Elizabeth Bower, co-authors of Grandloving: Making Memories With Your Grandchildren, 5th Edition (Heartstrings Press), it’s best for the grandparent and grandchild to set up a routine time to speak at least once a week. This can be done through video chat, phone calls or in-person visits. Johnson suggests that if grandma isn’t sure what to talk about, she should ask questions about the child’s best interests.

Get active.

There are many delightful things that children and grandparents can do together. Play building blocks, attend their sports games, and join them in the pool or on the ski slopes. “Grandparents should also teach their grandchildren something they enjoy, like sewing, gardening, woodworking or cooking. Who can ever forget grandma’s special cakes and pies?” Johnson says.

Go the distance.

For many clans, heading to grandpa’s house is a long-distance venture. In such circumstances, nurture the relationship through pictures and letters. “Take lots of photos when you are together and use these when apart. Make a photo puzzle, pop it in an envelope with the words. Put this together and see who loves and misses you!” Bower offers.

Leverage technology.

In today’s high-tech world, grandparents should stay savvy on up-to-date forms of communication, including textes, Facebook and Skype. “You can share puppets and stories with the little ones, watch the middle schooler’s piano practice, and it’s a great way to meet your teen grandchild’s friends when they’re visiting,” Johnson says.

Face the teen years.

It can be tough for grandparents to maintain a strong rapport with teenagers. To help, grandparents should show a genuine interest in their grandkids’ favorite hobbies, including music, books and sports. Bower advises grandparents to find a mutual interest and attend their special events. Most of all, grandpa should avoid criticizing the adolescent’s personal style or groups of friends. If grandparents remain approachable and understanding, they may be the one the child turns to if things get difficult at home.

There are countless benefits from nurturing this relationship. Children gain a sense of security and a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves, while grandparents feel appreciated and needed. “It’s a win-win for the entire family— there’s that extra love to go around,” Johnson says.