Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Grandparents do make a difference - 14

September 2010



Each month we bring you this special column on grandparenting written by our expert contributor Jeanne Davis.  

This month she looks at relationships with grandchildren who are growing up.

If you have a subject you would like covered by Jeanne, please email us at:


“Claire came to stay at my house for a week to study for her exams,” says Shirley. “I think she came for peace and quiet. Though her parents are very loving, sometimes they are too attentive.” The 17-year-old didn’t want to face their constant intrusions, asking: “What are you working on now? Do you need some help?”

Her mother says, though, that Claire probably came to Grandma’s so she could have a clean room, her room at home being a typical teenage mess.

When Claire and her three cousins were small, they came to Grandma Shirley’s house to make things, to bake cupcakes and to sew. Shirley loves to sew and bake, and let the children use her sewing machine.

The grandchildren no longer come to Shirley’s every weekend. At their age, there is always something else going on with their friends.

These are some of the changes in many grandparents’ relationships with their grandchildren when they inevitably grow into teenagers. What doesn’t change, though, is their love. They loved you when they were young and they still do - albeit greeting you with a diffident smile and not a running leap into your arms shouting “Grandma, Grandpa”.

Little research is available on grandparent-grandchild relations when grandchildren are in their teenage years, particularly on the range of help and support provided by grandparents to older grandchildren, or vice versa. A recent study, though, conducted by the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, provides some key findings.

Grandparents generally spoke positively about being a grandparent using terms like ‘love’, 'enjoyment’ and ‘happiness’. Some grandchildren saw their grandparents as fitting stereotypes as frail or out of touch, but others said they were ‘modern’, describing them as ‘fun’, ‘caring’, ‘active’ and up to date. Both generations described how grandparents often played a key role in ‘listening’ to grandchildren.

Many young people said they could share problems and concerns with their grandparents and referred to the way grandparents would sometimes act as go-betweens in the family, particularly when there were disagreements between themselves and their parents.

The key is to keep your relationship with your teenage grandchildren open and loving.


  • Lecture them.
  • Wade in with advice unless they ask.
  • Go to their parents unless you feel it’s vital. (If you’re worried about drugs or alcohol and have not been able to deal with it yourself, you may have to.)
  • Take sides.
  • Make light of their problems.


  • Tell them they can tell you anything – then really listen to what they say.
  • Reassure them you’ll love them no matter what.
  • Keep what they say in confidence
  • Try to put yourself in their place – remember how it feels to be young and a teenager
  • Stay calm

Technology changes the way we communicate. Shirley talks to the grandchildren via email now more than by phone. It is less demanding on their time and you know they’ll answer immediately.

Then there’s texting. Here parenting experts and the teenagers themselves may disagree. One writer includes texting to keep in touch if you’re a long distance grandparent. In a recent article, though, in the Guardian that listed things teenagers hate, top of the list was txt spk. “Connecting with us via txt spk. ‘R u ok? Nd hlp? ‘
Er, no thanks.”

Parents on Facebook! “Their only reason for joining is to spy on us. Unlike. Let the Twitter switch-over commence.”

Correcting speech. “We know our constant use of the word “like” is, like, grammatically incorrect and irritating, but we don’t actually care.”

Not all teenagers are alike, of course. You’ll know best what to do and what not to do

“I don’t email them or go on excursions with them,” says Grandfather Bernard. “What is most important to me and them is that they know I’m here for them.




Previous articles in the series:


1. Grandparents do make a difference
2. When Grandparents are on duty
3. To Discipline or not
4. The long Distance Grandparent
5. When the parents separate
6. Second time around
7. Who baby-sits?
8. Favouring one grandchild more than the others
9. Should Grandparents who provide child care receive financial assistance
10. A feast for mind and body for you and the grandchildren at half term
11. Jealous grandparents
12. When you agree to help with childcare
13. Parents would like grandparents to live closer
14. Grandparents and teen grandchildren



Want to comment on this article or ask other laterlife visitors a question?

Then click on the link below to visit the comment section of the Later Lifestyle Network, click on the 'Discussion Tab' (you can't see this until you are logged in) and Create a new topic or add your views to an existing one

Don't forget you need to login before you can make a comment.



Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti