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Grandparenting PrinciplesIssue12345

Developing Good Communication with Your Grandchildren

Open communication with your grandchildren is one of the keys to successfully caring for them and strengthening your relationship with them. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done,especially when grandchildren get older and enter their teen years. You can start fostering good communication with your grandchildren early on by providing them with a nurturing environment and teaching them they can always trust you and talk to you about anything.

You can find the right balance and the essentials for becoming a nurturing grandparent by using the SCALE:

  • Support — Lift your grandchildren up when they stumble, and cheer them on when they succeed.
  • Caring — Show affection often, from giving hugs to providing nutritious meals.
  • Acceptance — Offer unconditional love – always.
  • Love — Display physical and emotional attachment through positive words and actions.
  • Encouragement — Provide your grandchildren with hope, courage and confidence.

By following the SCALE approach, you can develop a trusting relationship with your grandchild where he/she feels there is no barrier to open and honest communication.

Of course, every child is unique, and providing even the most nurturing environment can’t guarantee that a child won’t sometimes be reluctant to open up. One way to promote better communication is to designate a night when your grandchild is with you as Family Meal Night. (Ideally, the meal should be dinner, but if another meal fits your schedule better, that’s okay.) Sitting down at the table to eat together sets aside an hour or so when you and your grandchildren can talk freely about what happened during their day and upcoming events. Doing this regularly during your grandchild’s visits help make discussions natural, fun and informative.

Even in this setting, grandparents can become frustrated when they ask their grandchild to share something and get only a one-word answer. When that happens, try these conversation starters:

  • What was the last book you read and what was it about?
  • Who’s your best friend at school?
  • Do you have any new toys or games?
  • What is one thing you learned today?
  • What made you laugh today?

The hope is that once you get more than a single word out of your grandchild, he/she will be more likely to form a full sentence… and then maybe even string several sentences together! It doesn’t always work, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

We also recommend making family dinner time a technology-free zone (for grandchildren and grandparents). Everyone is much more likely to talk with each other if they aren’t glued to their personal screens or watching TV.

Teaching Activity

At the Table

Once you have established Family Meal Night, let your grandchild (or grandchildren) help plan,shop for and prepare a meal. This is a great way to teach your grandchildren valuable skills they will need later in life, and it provides ideal opportunities for one-on-one conversations.

Parenting Strategy

Modeling Behaviors

Communication isn’t always verbal. Your grandchildren also are constantly watching and learning from your behaviors. Modeling the behaviors you want your grandchildren to use is also an important form of parental communication. Here are two ways to do this:

  1. Model positive behaviors you would want your grandchild to use in risky or potentially threatening situations.
  2. Identify situations specific to your grandchild’s age, and model behaviors you would want him/her to use in those situations.

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