University of Illinois Extension

Tune-in to Your Grandchild's Feelings

Marsha Hawley, Family Life Educator

Being a grandparent can be a challenge in this new century. Techniques you used with your children may not work with this generation.

Your grandchildren might have feelings of abandonment, frustration, or disappointment. Remember that feelings are just that: feelings. There's no right way to feel. The most important thing is just being there - in tune with your grandchildren's feelings.

Here are some tips to help you tune-in to your grandchildren.

  • Try to accept and respect their feelings. Try not to judge. You don't have to agree with their feelings, but do acknowledge them in a non-threatening way.
  • We often react to feelings and not the situation that is causing the feeling. Help the child separate the feeling from the situation. Then, talk about ways to improve the situation.
  • Avoid imposing your feelings on the child. Set aside your own feelings about the situation and try to fully understand how the child is feeling.
  • Realize that, just like physical growth, emotional growth occurs in stages. Young children have trouble regulating their emotions. School age children are learning to be more independent. Young adolescents are experiencing new feelings and emotions, and teens are learning to master these new feelings.
  • Don't avoid the issue. Sometimes, we reassure and console to avoid the issues at hand. Saying, "Don't worry, it'll work itself out," can shut down discussion. Instead, keep communication lines open by saying, "I can see this has really upset you, and I'll be glad to listen if you want to talk."
  • When one of your grandkids wants to talk, give your undivided attention. Don't read, watch TV, or do other tasks while talking.

You may not have the same feelings as your grandchildren, but just being there helps them feel understood... and, they know that you truly care.