If you're like many of us, you have incredibly fond memories of your time with your grandma or grandpa as a kid. The grandchild/grandparent relationship can be super important for both sides, so it's totally natural to wonder about the age grandchildren lose interest in grandparents. The thing is, they don't always (or even usually), lose interest — especially if you keep a few bonding tips in mind as they grow.
Maintaining a strong relationship with your grandkids is all about intention and making time, and that gets even more important as they get older. You're in a unique position to offer unconditional love and a safe emotional space for older kids and teens, who may be under a ton of pressure at home and at school. In some cases, they may need you now more than ever.
Do Kids Lose Interest in Their Grandparents as They Grow?
Many grandparents do notice a change in their interactions with their grandkids over time, especially around the tween and teen years. Kids can seem a little more independent and sometimes feel distant, and it's totally normal for grandparents to wonder, "Why do my grandchildren ignore me?" But experts suggest that it may simply take increased effort on both sides to maintain a strong bond between grandparents and grandchildren — starting about the time kids hit age 10.
Even though there isn't a specific or set age when kids lose interest in grandparents, you may feel things shifting in your bond as the teen years draw closer. In fact, many grandparents feel less satisfied with their relationship with their grandkids as the kids get older. The good news is they also report feeling more satisfied as kids leave the teen years behind. Having raised kids, this isn't your first rodeo, so you know how challenging these years can be for everyone involved.
A few things have changed since your grandkids' parents were teens, and it's good to keep that in mind. Teens often have super busy schedules these days with after-school activities, jobs, and social interactions. Add in the pressures (and distractions) of social media and technology, and it's a recipe for really busy kids.
Tips to Build the Bond Between Grandparents and Grandchildren
As kids grow, they may actually really need grandparents around, but that doesn't mean they know it or show it all the time. You can build your bond and keep the lines of communication open with a few simple actions.
1. Set Aside Time in Your Schedules
One of the most important things you can do to strengthen your bond with older kids is making the time for them (and asking them to make the time for you). What this looks like will depend a lot on your unique situation. If you live close to them and have the free time, you might see them weekly or even more often. If you're further away, it might be less.
What's important is to formalize that schedule. Pick a time for a grandparent day or a weekly phone call and stick to that. If you're far away, consider spending extra time together on school breaks. Kids need to know you are here when it might feel like a lot is changing in their lives.
Ask parents for help in setting the schedule. Once or twice a month, I call my parents and set up dates for them to see my kids.
2. Do What They Love to Do
Everyone loves to share their favorite activities, and grandkids are no exception. One of our editors was talking about how she relates to her grandkids, who are one and three. She said she gets down on their level and does what they are doing. This is such a great way to connect with toddlers, but it also works for tweens and teens (their level just happens to be different).
Find out what your grandkids love and find a way to share that. My 16-year-old says he loves going rock hunting with his grandma, for instance. They spend lots of time going on long walks to look for new rocks to add to their collection. While your thing might not be rock hunting, chances are there's something you both love. Think sports, books, thrift store shopping, riding bikes, you name it.
3. Show Your Love in Little Ways
How did your grandparents show they loved you when you were an older kid? My grandma sewed me beautiful jackets to wear with my prom dresses. Another writer on our team got weekly care packages from her grandma when she was in college. And another team member got regular letters with newspaper clippings her grandma thought she might find interesting. We all remember these acts of love because they really mattered to us.
Think about little things you can do to show your grandkids how much you care. These don't have to be expensive gifts or extravagant gestures. Usually, they involve sharing your time or skills. Make their favorite cookies or help them tune up their bike for the season. The things you do for them or make for them are actions that sometimes speak louder than words.
4. Use Technology to Connect With Your Grandkids
There's no denying that kids are on their phones a lot these days, and the constant presence of the device can seem like a distraction from really conversation and connection (okay, not just seem). But the thing with tech is that it's useful too, and you can use it to maintain your connection with older grandkids. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Text your grandchildren before big events in the lives like the first day of school, a test, or a big game.
- Play online games together — either on the computer or on your phones.
- If you live far away, do Facetime or a video call to catch up. It's the next best thing to being there.
- Ask kids to show you tips on dealing with new tech. Even if you know your way around your phone as well as they do, they'll feel useful sharing their skills.
5. Be There to Talk and Listen
Know what adults don't do with kids all that often? Talk to them as equals. When I was a teenager, my grandma and I used to have hours-long political debates. We were on the opposite sides of almost every issue, but the fact that she took the time to talk through her perspective and listen to mine made me feel important and respected.
You don't have to tackle major issues like politics when you talk to grandkids, but it can mean a lot to older kids if you ask what they think about things. Even something as simple as what you're planning for a family meal or how you should fix that porch railing can be an opportunity to honor their perspective. You'll find they'll probably do the same with you, and your conversations will get deeper.
6. Let Them Know Your Love Is Unconditional
Around the age when kids might seem to be losing interest in grandparents, they're actually going through so much change it's hard for them to feel like anything around them is certain. You remember from being that age or having kids of your own — the changing bodies, changing expectations, changing relationships, just so much changing in general.
At this age, a lot of kids lose track of who they are for a while. They may make poor choices or just struggle to figure out what they even like to do anymore. Remind them that you love them no matter what. Be there to see them as beautiful or smart, even when they have a face full of acne or a report card full of Cs and Ds. As a grandparent, you are in a unique position to remind them how truly special they are — when they need to hear it most.
You May Be Just What They Need Right Now
While there's no age that grandchildren lose interest in grandparents, things do get a little trickier in the preteen and teen years. You're up to the challenge, though. Show them how much you love them and make time for them, whether you live nearby or far away. You may be just what they need during this tumultuous time of life.