Grandparents love grandkids. They carry around photos of grandbabies for bragging rights. But what happens when those grandchildren grow up to be teenagers? How to keep the relationship fresh between grandparents and grandkids?
Bud Frimoth is a grandpa with some fresh ideas. As a liturgical clown (Bud is a retired Presbyterian Minister), Bud connected with his teenaged granddaughter when she was a student in the clowning classes he taught. Grandpa would then bring her to clown with him at various community events, such as the Festival of the Trees (which raises money for hospitalized kids at Providence Medical Center), visiting in hospitals, etc.
Bud has been playing with and enjoying time with teens for years. He started the Open Door Radio Ministry back in the 1970’s. Open Door featured prose written by people all over the world (many of them young people). He’d choose a theme to match the prose, and then have local teens read prose interspersed with modern pop and rock songs. Open Door aired all over the world and won over 40 awards including the most prestigious award in radio: The George Foster Peabody Award.
But back to grandparents and grandkids. Bud’s grandson was more reserved than his sister. Clowning publically wasn’t his thing, but helping was. He was the kid who’d stay after grade school to help the teacher put up chairs. Grandson liked to keep his hands busy, so Grandpa asked for grandson’s help. Grandson, now 17, takes the bus a few times a month to work with grandpa around the house: picking figs, vacuuming under beds, raking leaves, cleaning toilets. Working together on projects such as grandpa pruning bushes and grandson gathering up the branches. After the work grandpa and grandson visit with a snack before grandson comes home on the bus. Grandson likes that he can help – it makes him feel needed/appreciated, plus it allows him a chance to show his love for his grandpa – sometimes easier shown then said at times. Grandpa Bud understands this. He’s giving his grandson love and respect, and thus allowing his grandson to show HIM love and respect.
I think the strategy is for a grandparent to see their grandchild’s strength(s), and then creatively find a way to connect where you BOTH are having fun and/or accomplishing good.
Teens have a lot to offer, but sometimes they don’t know how or where to start. Grandparents can lead the way by listening and observing their grandchildren, and allowing the child’s strengths to combine with the grandparent’s interests. For example, if you love reading, ask your book-loving grandchild what they’re currently reading and read it so you can discuss it. If you are a gardener and you have a grandchild with the same passion, work together on a project such as planting a row of veggies for donation to a food bank. I think the key is for people to enjoy what they’re doing together, knowing they both get to play, and that their abilities, thoughts, and passions matter.