One of the most rewarding things about being a grandparent is having the opportunity to share your wisdom and life experience with your grandchildren.
You can help them navigate through life’s challenges, teach them important life lessons, and simply be a listening ear when they need it.
If you’re part of the 83% of Americans ages 65 and older who have grandkids, here are the 10 things your grandchildren need to hear from you.
#1 “You’re Loved and Valued, No Matter What”
Grandchildren are such a blessing, and of course, it’s worth cherishing every moment you have with them. What matters most is that they know you love them unconditionally.
In fact, a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship improves well-being and reduces depressive symptoms in both parties.
So tell them often, and show them in everything you do. We often think that love is implied, but kids need to hear the words, “I love you,” just as much as they need to see it in your actions. And this is especially important for adoptive grandparents.
As in, when looking at their grandchildren, they showed stronger emotional empathy than they did with their own children.
Bonus tip: Take an interest in the things your grandkids (and kids) enjoy doing – ask questions, listen to their stories, and be present when they’re talking to you. It’ll mean the world to them.
#2 “It’s Okay to Make Mistakes”
Grandchildren need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. We all do it — yes, even grandparents. It’s a part of life. But your grandchildren also need to hear that they have to learn from their mistakes.
What counts is how you react to making a mistake – do you learn from it or let it defeat you?
Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a person. So tell them not to worry about them, to just focus on doing their best instead.
And remember to keep in mind their parents’ priorities, too, when it comes to teaching your grandkids about mistakes and discipline. After all, discipline is the top disagreement among parents and grandparents on raising children, so it’s best to get on the same page.
Bonus tip: If you can, share a story about a time when you made a mistake and what you learned from it. It’ll help your grandchild feel like they’re not alone in making them.
#3 “You’re Never Too Old or Too Young to Learn Something New”
One of the best pieces of advice for grandchildren is to never stop learning. As a grandparent with experience and wisdom, you know that the world is constantly changing and that it’s important to stay curious and open-minded.
Whether it’s learning a new skill or trying out a new hobby, encourage your grandchild to always be learning something new.
And show them by example. The more they witness and see you challenging yourself to learn new things, the better. Not to mention, lifelong learning does wonders for protecting against cognitive decline.
Bonus tip: Learning doesn’t always have to be serious. Sometimes the best things in life are the things we learn by accident or through play.
#4 “I’m Proud of You”
Grandchildren need to hear that their grandparents are proud of them, no matter what. They need to feel loved and supported unconditionally. Even if they make mistakes, you can be there for them, telling them that they’re proud of them and cheering them on.
Not only will it make them feel good about themselves and encourage them to keep doing things the right way, but it’ll make them more likely to come to you for advice and support in the future. Research shows that even ambiguous praise (such as giving a high-five), motivates children to try again after a failure.
And ultimately, it shows them that you’re interested in their lives and care about what they’re doing. So, make sure to tell your grandchildren often that you’re proud of them. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.
Bonus tip: Try to avoid comparing your grandchildren to other people, especially their siblings or cousins. It can make them feel like they’re not good enough and that you’re not proud of them. Just focus on praising them for their individual accomplishments.
#5 “You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To”
Grandparents are usually a little more easygoing than parents. They’ve been around the block a few times and know that things usually have a way of working themselves out.
When you tell your grandchildren they can do anything they put their mind to, you instill in them a sense of hope and possibility. You let them know that they have control over their own destiny and that no matter what anyone says, they can achieve anything they set their mind to.
We highly recommend touting a growth mindset, which is the idea that you can work hard, overcome obstacles, and build resilience to achieve what you want (aka – you’re not just born a certain way – with or without talent or intelligence).
A growth mindset teaches you to embrace problems and failures – overcoming them is the path to success.
This is an empowering message for any grandchild (and person) to hear.
Bonus tip: Teach them the importance of always doing their best. While things may not always go their way, as long as they give it their all, they can be proud of themselves no matter the outcome.
#6 “You Can Always Talk to Me”
One of the things your grandchildren need to hear is that they can always come to you for advice, no matter what the problem is. We assume that you’d want them to feel comfortable talking to you about anything and everything. And this open line of communication helps you foster a connection with them.
It’s worth making it a priority to encourage grandchildren to talk to their parents first, though. The last thing you want to do is go over your childrens’ heads and (mis)assume their parenting role. With over 27% of adults experiencing family estrangement, it’s important to respect the nuclear household dynamic and simply support it with more love.
In the unfortunate case where the grandchild’s home base experiences a family breakdown, then extra grandparenting support can be helpful. A study found that children who had a close relationship and confided in their grandparents during a family disruption were better equipped to deal with the family adversity.
Regardless of the situation, it’s about supporting your family in the way that they need. While we advise you to be willing to listen to their problems and offer advice when needed, note that you can also respect their privacy and allow them to come to you on their own terms.
Bonus tip: If you want to be sure they feel comfortable coming to you, avoid lecturing them or making them feel like they’re in trouble when they do come to you with a problem.
#7 “Trust Your Feelings”
When you were young, your parents and teachers worked hard to help you develop a strong sense of logic and reason. We learn to trust what we can see and touch, and to be skeptical of anything that can’t be explained.
This is an essential skill for navigating the world safely and effectively.
But arguably more important is the skill of cultivating your intuition and feelings – the other half of our inner voice. Listening to your intuition helps you make better decisions in all areas of life, including relationships.
And it’s backed by science, too. A 2012 study led by Erik Dane at Rice University found that experts using their intuition were nearly 20% more accurate than the experts using analysis alone.
So teaching your grandchildren how to develop their intuition is one of the best things you can do for them.
Sometimes things just don’t feel right – and that’s a helpful sign. Which is why it’s so important to trust your gut and go with your intuitive feelings. If something feels off, it probably is. So teach your grandchildren to not be afraid to follow that inner guidance.
Bonus tip: Encourage your grandchildren to keep a journal. Writing things down is a great way to process feelings and develop intuition.
#8 “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay”
One of the most important things that grandchildren need to hear is that it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s okay to talk about those feelings.
As your grandchildren grow, it’s important to teach them that all emotions are valid. Emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, and love are all a natural part of life, and it’s okay for your grandchildren to feel them all.
This embracing of all the emotions may come as a different tactic than your parenting days, but it’s a more modern approach that helps boost your grandchild’s self-esteem and self-acceptance.
For instance, research shows it’s more effective to adopt an Authoritative vs. Authoritarian parenting style, so support your grandchildren with a style that’s congruent with their parents’ hopefully-Authoritative parenting style.
By teaching them this early on, you can help them build a foundation of self-confidence and emotional maturity – not only so they can understand their own emotions, but also so they can be more understanding and accepting of others’.
You can help provide a safe place for grandchildren to express their emotions and offer support and understanding.
Bonus tip: Model emotional honesty yourself. Show your grandchildren that it’s okay to be vulnerable and express emotions openly. This will encourage them to do the same.
#9 “Let Me Show You…”
Is there anything more rewarding than teaching your grandkids new skills?
Not only do they get to learn something new, but you also get to spend quality time with them. Plus, it can help ensure they’re prepared for whatever life throws their way.
So, the next time your grandchild comes to visit, take some time to teach them something new. It can be anything from how to bake cookies to fixing a leaky faucet. And research shows that older generations play a crucial role in developing children’s understanding of how things work.
For instance, my grandparents taught me how to play chess, keep a reading diary, and always fight for what’s right. And to this day, I still remember those precious moments spent with them.
Your grandkids will also love spending one-on-one time with you, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve passed on some of your wisdom.
Bonus tip: Better yet, learn something new together. It’ll be an incredibly bonding experience.
#10 “Let Me Tell You a Story…”
Grandparents are the ultimate storytellers. They have a lifetime of experiences to share, and grandchildren love hearing about them. Whether it’s a funny story from their childhood or a heartwarming moment from their adult years, always make time for storytelling.
An AARP grandparents survey reveals that while grandparents make important financial contributions to their grandchildren, they also share important wisdom and guidance.
I visit my grandma every week and I always love learning more about her life. It’s so interesting to hear about the things she’s experienced and the things she’s seen. And even though I already know most of the stories, I still love hearing her tell them.
So share your stories with your grandchildren. They’ll love hearing them and you’ll love telling them.
Bonus tip: If you’re not much of a storyteller, try writing them down instead using a journal or guided prompts like in Grandma Tell Me Your Story and Grandpa Tell Me Your Story. Your grandchildren will love reading them back later in life.
Don’t Leave Things Unsaid
Though you may not be there with your grandchildren every day, you can provide them with support and love by telling them things they need to hear.
These are just a few examples, but the most important thing is that we express love and concern for our grandchildren in whatever way we can.
To recap the 10 things grandchildren need to hear:
- #1 “You’re Loved and Valued, No Matter What” — tell (and show) your grandchildren you love them – often
- #2 “You’re Never Too Old or Too Young to Learn Something New” — teach them to be lifelong learners
- #3 “It’s Okay to Make Mistakes” — and it’s important to learn from them
- #4 “I’m Proud of You” — your grandchildren need to hear and feel your support
- #5 “You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To” — strengthen their self-confidence
- #6 “You Can Always Talk to Me” — tell them your door is always open
- #7 “Trust Your Feelings” — teach your grandchildren to listen to their intuition
- #8 “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” — every emotion is valid and grandkids need to know how they can express them
- #9 “Let Me Show You…” — share your knowledge and teach them valuable (or fun and interesting) skills
- #10 “Let Me Tell You a Story…” — bond over your own personal experiences and stories
By doing so, we open up the door for communication and strengthen the bond between us.
So don’t leave things unsaid, express yourself to your grandchildren — they need to hear it.