Connecting with Teenage Grandkids


My boys are incredibly blessed to have grandparents who work hard to nurture a trusting, playful connection with them. Who better to offer advice on how to connect with teenage grandkids than two grandparents who make enormous efforts to play an active role in their grandkids’ lives?

My parents live in our city for only two to three months out of the year, which means they need to consider how to remain present in our lives whether they are five minutes or five thousand miles away. Experiencing both ends of the spectrum provides my parents with the added advantage of being able to speak to grandparents who may be geographically close and can partake in daily activities, and those who may live further away and wish to remain connected without the privilege of being physically present.


Know what’s important to your grandkids. We make an effort to be a part of activities which are important to the boys—school, hobbies, sports, friends. Whenever possible, we show up to their special events but when that’s not feasible, we call or FaceTime because we want to hear all about it. Be sure to ask lots of questions and encourage conversation. Show your interest!

Create opportunities to have fun as a family. If you live in the same city, this may be a family picnic in the park, a Sunday night barbeque, family movie nights or game nights. If you live in a different city, invite your grandchildren to stay with you for a long weekend or an extended period over summer break. (Inviting just the kids without their parents is an excellent way to foster bonding time.) And, when they come to visit, plan exciting experiences you can share together.

Encourage projects together. In the past, we have helped our older grandson build a display wall of skateboards in his bedroom. Last summer, we helped the younger one fashion his own fishing rod. We ask them to cook with us, and we learn new skills together such as wakesurfing. They help us around the yard or with household building projects. When we are working towards a common goal, we share failures, successes, and lots of laughter. As grandparents, we are modelling that we are still learning too. We love to hear their suggestions and ideas when problems inevitably arise. We want our grandkids to know we think they are smart and innovative (and they can learn a lot from us, too).

If you don’t live near your grandchildren, perhaps you can all take an online course together, watch the same Netflix show, or help them with their homework over FaceTime.

Let your grandkids know how much you enjoy their company. We tell our boys they can talk to us about anything—YouTube, friendships, alcohol, sports, love. We try to be non-judgmental and create a safe space for them to share. They can come to us for advice or support even in times when it’s hard for them to talk with their parents. We appreciate them as teenagers and love who they are trying to become.

Offer to drive them places. While this seems simple, the best conversations often happen in the car! It’s also a fantastic opportunity to get to know their friends, if they come along for the ride. We often offer to stop for a slice of pizza or a Starbucks, as this creates more shared time together.


Jackson (aged 16): It’s easy to talk to Nana and Papa because they take an interest in me. I can talk to Nana about fitness and Papa loves soccer. Papa is one of my best friends. I talk to him almost every day. If you don’t share an interest with your grandkids, you can try to learn a little. Maybe watch a YouTube video or watch their favourite TV show. That way you have something to ask them about.

My grandparents are cool people. They have lots of interesting friends and they have cool experiences, so I like to ask them about what’s going on in their lives. They tell great stories and I like talking to them.

They’re also really fun. They invite me to do cool things with them, like go on the boat, play soccer-golf or go quadding. I like hanging out with them.

Chase (aged 13): I know Nana and Papa care about me because they call regularly. They know my friends’ names and they ask about them. They know my interests. Nana asks what I’m reading, and Papa asks about soccer. They’re also fun to be around. They laugh and smile a lot. I like that.

Connecting with teens isn’t always easy. They can be moody, unpredictable, and hormonal. The world they live in is very different from when you were their age, and this may be challenging to relate to at times. Despite their occasional stand-offish-ness, teens want what everyone else wants: to be seen, heard and loved. So push through your grandchildren’s prickly demeanor to show them how much you value and enjoy their company. When grandparents and teens connect, it brings joy and vitality to all!

Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve is a best-selling author and an educator. More importantly, she is the proud parent of 2 amazing sons.

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