Some of us are lucky enough to have a naturally great connection with our parents’ parents. Perhaps you had a lot of contact with your grandparents as a child, or you see them on a very regular basis. Maybe they provide free childcare for you (or free baked goodies – my granny is great at this!)
Sometimes, though, you might find that you have to work a bit harder to build up and maintain a good relationship with your grandparents. Perhaps the generation gap seems, at times, almost insurmountable. Maybe you can never quite get them to understand what you do for a living (“so, dear, just explain this ‘internet’ thing again…”) You might also be struggling to establish cordial relations with your partner’s grandparents.
Here are some simple ways to get on well with your grandparents (or other folk of your grandparents’ generation):
Focus On What Interests Them
Whenever you want to establish a great connection with someone, you need to find out what their interests are, and use those as a starting point. This is hardly new advice; it’s an important principle in Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (published in 1936).
So how do you find out what interests your grandparents? Chances are, you already know some of their interests. These might be hobbies such as woodwork, collecting or entering competitions. (If you’re trying to relate to older folk who aren’t relatives you know well, keep an eye out for books or magazines around the house for clues). Church and community topics are also often of interest.
Look for timeless interests that you can share with them: perhaps a love of the outdoors, or of good food! This is particularly helpful if most of your hobbies (and your conversations with your peers) revolve around cutting-edge technology or very recent inventions.
Teach One Another
A very powerful way to build up a great relationship is to ask your grandparents to teach you a particular skill. Perhaps you’ve always admired your grandma’s ability to make Christmas puddings, or maybe your grandpa is an expert carpenter. Older people have decades of knowledge and skills to pass on – make the most of this!
And don’t stop there: return the favor by teaching something in return. Perhaps your nan would love to learn how to use email, or maybe your great-uncle would secretly love to be able to compete with the younger generation on Guitar Hero…
Avoid Political/Religious Discussions
This isn’t always necessary, but depending on your own views and those of your grandparents, you might find it best to avoid discussing certain topics. If you have differing political views (if you’re liberal and they’re conservative, or vice versa), avoid letting family occasions turn into an argument.
This also goes for religious views. Perhaps you were brought up as a strict member of a certain religion, and you’ve since made up your mind to follow a different path. If your grandparents are still praying for you to return to their belief system, you probably don’t want to go in all guns blazing about why you reckon it’s a load of baloney. Be as respectful as you can be of their beliefs, even when you think they are wrong or misinformed.
Send a Handwritten Letter or Card
If you aren’t able to visit your grandparents very often, take the time to send an occasional letter or card. Ideally, write it the old-fashioned way, pen and paper, instead of using a computer (typed letters often come across as business-like or impersonal to older folk).
Let them know about all the news in your life – though keep business or work jargon out. As above, focus on topics of mutual interest: you might want to describe a recent trip to the theatre, or a community event. When sending a card, take the time to choose one with a picture or design that you know will appeal.
Do you have a great relationship with your grandparents (or other people of a similar age)? Has it arisen naturally throughout your life, or did you have to work at it? What tips do you have for maintaining a strong relationship?
|Written on 7/4/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ([email protected]) or check out her website at Aliventures.||Photo Credit: ryanrocketship|