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How to talk to teen grandchildren

Nov 14, 2011, 8:56 a.m.

Teenage grandchildren can seem like they're from another world. To you, they seem different from who they are as children or who you expected them to become. Relating to them during their teenage years can be difficult in some ways, but it can also be fascinating. You can learn how the world has changed and how people move through their younger years in an evolving society, while growing closer to your grandchildren.

Become worthy of their trust

Finding common ground with a teen grandchild is the first step toward having effective communication, but that ground can seem elusive. Be willing to look for it and work on keeping the lines of discussion open. Find a hobby or interest that you can discover together, and allow that time to be time for discussion, unofficially. Let your grandchildren know that they can always come and talk to you. Earn their trust by keeping discussions to yourself and not talking about them with your grandchildren's parents, unless there is real danger.

Once your grandchildren see that you are a trustworthy presence, they'll be more likely to open up about their lives. There will be things they still don't want to tell you, and you need to respect that. It can be hard to keep quiet and not pry, but the more you let your grandchildren lead the conversation the better off you'll be when it comes to having a good discussion with them and learning about their lives.

Learn how and when to impart wisdom

Through talking with them about what they may be facing in life, you can impart some wisdom that you've learned from age and life experience. Don't monopolize the conversation or condescend to them, but look for moments when they may be asking for your advice. Don't make them feel as though your way is the correct and only way, but give context to your advice and they'll be more likely to listen and understand, which could help them later in life during tough situations. Even more important, your teen grandchild could learn that they have a confidant and a person to come to when those situations do arise.

When teens don't want to talk

Some grandchildren are more reachable than others, of course. Teens are notorious for keeping their personal lives away from their family. If you were close to your grandchildren when they were little, though, your chances of staying close to them as they go through their teenage years are higher. If you're just getting involved in their lives as they're moving into their teenage years, you'll most likely be fighting an uphill battle to be seen as a confidant.

Despite reservations on both sides, never give up listening to your grandchild when he does speak. Be attentive to when he wants advice versus when he needs to let his emotions out. Impart your thoughts only when it seems appropriate. Teenagers are going through so many things and changing so rapidly that they need people to lean on and people to help them understand themselves and the world around them. By showing your teen grandchildren love and patience, you can be one of those people.

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