When you think of a grandparent, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of a grandmother baking cookies and snuggling with her grandchildren. Maybe you think of a grandfather bouncing a baby on his knee or tossing a grandchild playfully in the air. While many children get to enjoy healthy, active grandparents, some children have grandparents who, because of cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other diseases aren’t able to interact with them in the same way. Some children may have always known their grandparents in that way, while others may remember their grandparents being more active and wonder why they’ve begun to change.
In The Old Man and His Grandson from iStoryBooks.co, a young boy named Trevor, experiences what it’s like to live with an aging grandfather. In Trevor’s family, like in many families where adults are caring for aging relatives, there is a lot of stress and misunderstanding.
When it comes to living in a home with an aging grandparent, children can face a lot of emotions. They may be embarrassed by their grandparents, confused by the situation, and unsure how to act around them. They may be frustrated by the grandparents’ actions, jealous about the amount of attention the grandparent needs, or sad about the changes they see taking place. Because the adults in the household are often consumed with taking care of the grandparent, they may not recognize that children are struggling with the situation.
Talking to Kids about Aging
If you live in a home with an aging grandparent, take some time to talk to kids about the situation. Your conversation should include:
- A basic description of what is going on with grandma/grandpa
- The kind of care and attention grandma/grandpa needs
- A general idea of what children can expect to happen
- Answers to questions children may have about the situation
- Guidelines for how to interact with grandma/grandpa
- A chance for children to express their concerns/feelings
It may be hard for children to put their feelings into words. It may be helpful to encourage children to keep a journal about their feelings. Younger children may want to draw pictures to express themselves. You can talk to children about what they’ve written or drawn to help them feel more comfortable with the situation.
Interacting with Aging Grandparents
One issue many children and other family members have is not knowing how to interact with an aging grandparent. In The Old Man and His Grandson, Trevor’s mother sees his grandfather as a burden and treats him very poorly. However, despite his condition, Trevor’s grandfather is still a human being with feelings and deserves respect.
Adults can model positive interactions with aging grandparents. They should take care to treat the grandparents with respect and to use kind words, even when the stress of the situation threatens to overwhelm them.
Adults can also encourage children to interact with the grandparents. Some ways children can interact with aging grandparents include:
- Going for walks with them
- Drawing pictures for them
- Reading books to them
- Talking to them
- Singing them songs
- Watching a TV show or movie together
- Looking at pictures together
- Listening to them talk about the past
- Holding their hand or giving them hugs/kisses
It’s not easy for children or adults to handle aging grandparents, particularly when they’re living in your home, but taking the time to talk with children about their feelings, being open to any questions they have, and showing them ways they can interact with their grandparents can help make the experience more positive.