Improving Grandparent Relations

We were really hurt and dismayed when our grandchildren shied away from us during this year’s Christmas visit. Even though we gave them presents when we arrived, it was three days before they warmed up enough to sit on our laps or give us hugs. This worries me.

Many children only see their grandparents once a year — if they are lucky. When these rare visits occur, young children often hang back at first and treat grandparents as strangers. Though it may be reassuring to know that this behavior is normal (especially for children three and younger), it still hurts.

There are a few things you can do as grandparents to ease the pain of this experience. Begin by being prepared for this behavior; stay calm and casual until children feel at ease. On holidays it’s a good idea to save the gifts until children feel comfortable. By giving gifts immediately upon arrival, children focus on the gifts instead of the family relationships you are trying to build.

It also helps to stay in better touch throughout the year. If phone calls are too expensive, try email or send notes and postcards. You can also send cassette tapes or videotapes. Although children and grandparents both love mail, it may be the parents in the middle of these two generations who need to establish this family communication habit and keep it going.

Parents can also facilitate better relations between generations by sending your child’s colorful scribble drawings and other “creations” to grandparents. They’ll love it and you can avoid a traffic jam on the refrigerator door.

When the time comes for a visit be sure to take lots of photos of time spent together. Simple activities like playing the piano, playing games, playing with the cat or dog, baking cookies or going fishing make great memories. Send color copies of these photos to the kids once a month with short notes. These reminders of happy memories will help build your relationship and make it strong, even when you are far away.