Good conversation can play an important role in nurturing the relationship with your grandchildren. Whether you’re having a FaceTime call or a phone chat with your grandchild, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Some people – young and old – have a natural gift for gab. But for those of us who don’t, I’d like to share some conversation tips to help you connect with your grandchildren.
Good communication is a value and interest of mine. I’ve worked at honing my communication skills in both my personal and professional life. I grew up listening to my grandma tell stories of the San Francisco 1906 earthquake. She was blessed with the gift of gab and could talk to anyone anywhere – in the grocery line, on the bus and in shops.
I chose communication as my career path and earned my master’s degree in communication disorders. Part of my training included learning how to listen and diagnose speech disorders.
Good Conversation Is an Important Skill
Being able to carry on a conversation is an important life skill for our grandchildren to master in their relationships and careers. We can give them opportunities to practice good communication as well as be their role models.
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to my 17-year old grandchild for two hours. Juliet is my first grandchild and the inspiration behind the GaGa Sisterhood. When I witnessed Juliet’s birth in 2003, I went completely “gaga.” Juliet and I have always enjoyed long conversations but this one may have set a new record.
Timing is everything when calling a teen. I texted Juliet at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon to recommend an audiobook I thought she might like — The Beauty in Breaking, a memoir by an ER doctor. Juliet plans to study medicine. Then I asked: Got time for a call?
Juliet texted back: Cool. I can talk for a little bit.
We got on our cell phones and the conversation flowed for the next two hours.
Whenever you’re having a conversation, keep in mind a basic rule: Be interested and interesting.
Conversation Tips to Connect with Grandchildren
LISTEN with your full attention. The most challenging part of listening is to stay focused on what your grandchild is saying NOT on what you want to say next. Good listening is a form of meditation — you have thoughts come into your head that may tempt you to jump in and interrupt but you need to let them go and direct your focus back to the child. Keep the focus on your grandchild.
Don’t interrupt. I’m guilty of this because my curiosity gets the best of me. I want to ask questions about something she said and have to remind myself to be patient. A wise person once pointed out that interrupting with questions is a form of controlling the conversation in your direction instead of letting it unfold by the speaker.
Ask questions when there’s a pause. If your grandchild shares something new, ask open questions about that topic and use the phrase “tell me more.”
Stay current on news and topics of interest to your grandchildren. Prepare some questions or news before the call to share when the conversation wanes.
Find common interests. When you have experience in a topic your grandchild mentions, wait for an opportunity to share a story about your interest.
Don’t be scared by silence. Sometimes a little break can give each of you a chance to refocus. I always ask, “Anything else?” and then wait.
Know when to end the conversation. If your conversation is going well, it might be hard to know when to end it. You don’t want to interrupt your grandchild, but you don’t want the conversation to run its course. It’s easier to end too early and promise to talk again than to let the conversation go too long. I always end by saying “thank you for this wonderful conversation. I always learn something new from you.”
Be patient – it takes conscious practice to build these skills. Pay attention to your own conversation and notice where your mind is. Make sure you’re not reading emails or texts while you’re talking. By consciously practicing these conversation tips and being an engaged listener, you will strengthen the bond with your grandchildren. Your interest and curiosity in their lives can boost their self-esteem and make them feel valued.