National Grandparents Day has been celebrated in the United States every year since 1978 on the first Sunday after Labor Day. It gives both grandchildren and grandparents an opportunity to reflect on the importance of each other. The statute establishing the holiday includes these words about the purpose of Grandparents Day: “…to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”
Grandparents of babies revel in the thrill of new life and those of young children enjoy the hugs and cuddles they share with their grandchildren. There are numerous websites and books that suggest fun ways of connecting between the generations. Research has shown that playing with grandkids as they grow benefits the health and well-being of the older generation as well as the younger. Being playful as an adult enhances creativity, lowers stress levels, improves memory and strengthens the immune system.
And society as a whole has benefited from grandparents caring for their children’s children – the value of the Grandmother Effect has been particularly identified.
But what happens when those cute little grandchildren grow into teenagers and, approproately, draw away from family and towards their peers? As teens continue to grow and mature, their parents are eventually left with an empty nest. What about the grandparents? They are left with empty arms. Here are a few tips for grandparents of teens and twenty-somethings who want to retain their close relationships:
Text: Learn the lingo and get in the habit of sending short, focused messages. Don’t expect long responses.
Resist intruding: Teenagers like their privacy. But do try to know who their friends are and what they’re interested in. These can be the basis for new ways of relating.
Respect their space: Once they trust that you aren’t going to crowd them, they’ll be more likely to preserve the connections between you.
You may now have to stand on tiptoe to give your grandson or granddaughter a hug, but you can still enjoy your evolving relationship and celebrate every day of the year!