Being a teenager has never been easy, but today, young people seem to be facing more challenges than ever. Eco-anxiety (the worry which accompanies climate change), gender issues, body image concerns, housing shortages, and the sheer daily grind that comes with a never-ending round of internal school assessments, is enough to throw teens into despair, and sometimes, depression. So, as a grandparent, how can you be the rock your grand-teen so desperately needs?
Time is a scarce commodity today, and if you’re a teen, it can be almost impossible to find an adult who will listen to you in a way that actually means something. Next time your gran-teen phones or calls round, stop what you’re doing – and that means really stop. Turn off the TV or laptop, delay cooking dinner, stop tinkering with the car – and give your 100% attention to the young person in front of you. As you do so, offer eye contact, or if you’re on the phone, give plenty of ‘aha’s’ and ‘I see’s’ so they know you’re actually listening. This may be the only time in the week when your special young person has felt someone actively cares about them.
Listen, don’t solve
Listening to your grand-teen doesn’t mean problem-solving for them. In fact, how could you ever hope to ‘fix’ their worries when they inhabit a world that is so very different from your own. Yet research shows that, by actively listening to another, you are helping reduce their anxiety, often to a point where they see their own way out of a predicament.
See them, not their appearance
Let’s face it, gangly teens trying to live out the latest fashion (often on the cheap) are never going to look their best. But it’s your job to see them, not their appearance. In fact, this is so important that it’s actually best not to make any comment on their appearance, even a positive one, lest it is misconstrued. Instead, stick with neutral comments when you meet such as “I was hoping you’d pop round” or “How nice to hear your voice.”
Teenagers are at the end of a lot of mistrust – from parents who want to know where they’re going and why, to teachers who track their every move while at school. While this is often necessary, it’s also wearying for young people and does little to boost their confidence. As a grandparent, you can turn this on its head by trusting them where you can. This can be as simple as asking them to choose a movie for you both to watch, or letting them bake for you. If you’re heading away for the weekend, why not ask them to check on your house or look after your pet. If they need a car (and their parents agree and your insurance cover extends to a young person driving your vehicle) lend them yours. When you decide to trust a young person, you’ll be surprised at how well they step up to the mark.
Life’s tough, and we all crave a little TLC. So keep the fruit bowl full, the cookie tin well-stocked, and some juice in the fridge. Coupled with a comfy chair, you’re attention and love, their day’s troubles will be quickly eased.