In today’s society, families are often separated by long distances. Children move away from home to pursue career opportunities and ultimately raise a family in a new city. Grandparents may only see their grandchildren a few times a year, during summer breaks and holidays.
The lack of regular contact with grandparents can make it more difficult for kids to develop healthy attitudes about aging. In contrast, children who have relationships with older adults learn to appreciate the wisdom and positive contributions older adults can offer.
There are plenty of ways to help you build and nourish meaningful relationships with the young people in your life. Learn more about what makes for a good connection and get ideas for fun activities you can enjoy together.
Building Successful Intergenerational Relationships
Research suggests that children who don’t have enough opportunities to interact with grandparents or other seniors are more likely to have negative feelings about aging.
For them, the stereotypes about old age are more likely to make them fearful of growing older. By helping connect kids and seniors, however, we can overcome these stereotypes.
Furthermore, the Institute on Aging identified four main benefits that can come from intergenerational relationships:
- Socialization - children learn how to get along with people of different ages, and older adults get a dose of fun social interaction.
- Purpose - spending time together can help both kids and seniors reignite their sense of importance and confidence.
- Health - both parties have a chance to exercise their bodies, minds, and emotions.
- Relationship to technology - older adults can learn skills from tech-savvy kids, and children can learn that technology isn’t the only way to spend time.
Tips for Intergenerational Connections
How can seniors successfully connect with a younger generation? Here are a few things to consider:
- Start early. Because of their curiosity and sense of adventure, connecting with preschoolers and elementary-aged children can be less intimidating. Volunteering to read to children at your local library is a great way to get started.
Be sure the book choices are ones that portray older adults in a positive way. If you need suggestions, Generations United has a list of recommendations.
- Establish age-appropriate activities. Make sure any activities you choose are age-appropriate. Having activities that are too advanced or too simple for kids will only make it difficult for older adults to keep their attention. Sites like Wonderopolis can help you come up with interesting and fun ideas.
- Keep it simple. Be sure to keep the activities you establish simple and relaxed. This type of environment allows you to establish meaningful conversations with the kids and begin building a relationship.
Family Activities for Grandchildren and Grandparents
Building a strong bond between grandchildren and grandparents is easier when you find activities you can do together.
Travel isn’t necessary, but a great imagination is essential. Depending on the weather, camping trips can take place either in the yard or living room. A spa day with manicures and facials is easy to set up in the kitchen or bathroom.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Start a book club. If you are able to visit with you grandchildren regularly, set up a date and time to read to them. You can also select a few books they will read when they are at home. If you live far away from your grandchildren, hold regular book club meetings via Skype or FaceTime.
- Whip up a favorite dish. Choose a favorite family recipe and make it together. A plus for grandchildren is to have you write the recipe down in your own handwriting so the child will have it to keep forever.
- Create a scavenger hunt. Depending on the weather, you can hold the hunt either indoors or out. Develop a list of things to find before the children arrive. Once they are there, head off to find all of the items on the list.
- Start a pen-pal correspondence. In today’s digital age there is something special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail. Bonus: This activity helps reinforce penmanship skills for those who are just learning. Send short letters, cards, notes, cartoons, or anything you would both enjoy on a regular basis.
- Look through old photos together. Flipping through photo albums and watching home videos are fun ways to spend a day together. Kids will be delighted to see how their parents used to look, and you’ll enjoy telling the stories behind the snapshots.