Most teenagers spend their high school years anticipating graduation and the independence that will follow. As much as teens would like to stand alone in their college years, students are more successful in college if they have a strong support system at home.
You, as a grandparent, are so important to the development of your grandchild’s values and goals. Your relationship with your grandchild, at any age, can help establish his or her sense of self, of roots and of tradition.
Members of Generation Y or the Millennial generation are great at connecting with other people. This probably doesn’t surprise you, especially if you’ve witnessed how much time they spend on their phones. (Not even talking! Just staring at a screen!) However, studies also show that because this generation spends so much time breaking down boundaries to connect with others, these kids don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what defines them.
They are receiving an overwhelming amount of messages: from television and the Internet, their friends and their professors. Every day, college-aged kids wade through thousands of different lifestyle options, and they need your support. They may not know it, but they do!
They need structure, and they need values they can depend on.
College is a process of maturation, a coming-of-age stage that demands a lot of independence. Your grandchild is growing into an adult, and this is the time for you to begin relating to him or her as an adult. This is a great time to become a mentor, to share stories to establish mutual respect. Honesty is important. Remind them that you’ve lived at their age. Undoubtedly you’ve made some mistakes, but you have had years to reflect and grow. Passing along wisdom is one of the greatest gifts you can offer a child.
The tough part is getting them to pay attention. When trying to connect with a college-aged student across a distance (via phone, mail or e-mail) think of how you would approach a distracted child. I recommend giving them something small to consider, something that doesn’t demand a lot of effort, but still prompts them to consider their roots and their future. Sharing is the key.
For example, you could send your college-aged student a snack pack full of goodies, and that’s very thoughtful; but you could also send them a pack of blank “Thank You” cards and a sheet of stamps with a suggestion such as, “If you forget those who have helped you, they may have forgotten you when you need help again. Gratitude is always remembered and appreciated. I’m sure your professors would enjoy hearing how they’ve helped you this semester.”
Because we are older, we have spent more time as “Givers,” and we understand the value of Thank You notes more than a young person could. It is never too early or too late to teach a child the value of a formal expression of gratitude, and by encouraging your grandchild to send a Thank You card, you are also encouraging him to form healthy relationships with other mentors. Sending items or sharing personal stories is a great way to connect with a student during his busy schedule.
When your grandchildren are in your home, do not hesitate to recruit them on a project. Building and making things together is an essential part of establishing roots. Who else can teach your granddaughter to quilt or bake an apple pie? Who else can teach your grandson to split wood or build a fence? Who else can teach the patience and hard work of gardening?
Ask them hard questions about their schoolwork and their future, but only when you’re face-to-face. This will require them to focus and will make it difficult for them to evade the question. If they get frustrated, give them space. Later, ask them what was upsetting about the question. Listen and then ask if you can help. Even if you can’t help solve the problem, just knowing about the problem can be supportive.
E-mails and even Facebook updates are a great way to connect with college students. Never forget that your grandchildren are being pulled in many different directions right now, and they may give you the attention or respect your actions merit. Be generous and forgiving, and be consistent. You may have to make a lot of effort to reach them, but later, when they reach the next level of adulthood, they will appreciate it.
Also, your grandchild’s relationship with you could give him an edge in the workplace. There is rising tension between younger and older generations, and if your grandchild has a healthy respect for tradition and the older generations, he could adapt more easily to today’s work environment.
This guest post comes courtesy of Mariana Ashley, a freelance writer who offers online colleges advice throughout the interwebs, and welcomes responses at email@example.com.