There can certainly be awkward moments when trying to warm up to your grandchildren, especially if you don’t see them very often. How do you start a conversation? Kids don’t often want to talk about the same things that adults do. Here are some tips on breaking the ice, and how to talk to your grandchildren.
1. Avoid General Questions
Try to avoid broad questions like, “How’s it going?” or “What are you learning in school?” Instead, ask some specific but non-threatening questions, such as, “Do you like your teacher? Does he/she assign a lot of homework?” or “Are you playing any sports this year?”
2. Share Your Experiences
A good ice-breaker with grandkids – and a conversational way to follow up some of the above questions – is to share a funny or interesting (and brief) story. If you’re asking about school as suggested above, you could start by telling a story about one of your teachers or a funny experience you had at school. Then you could follow up with a question like, “You ever have anything like that happen to you?”
3. Reveal a Few Funny Details
You knew your grandchildren’s parents when they were kids, so why not tell about that one time that their mom stole a candy bar from the store and you had to pay for it, or the time their dad blew up the pressure cooker trying to cook dinner. Kids love to hear that their parents are “human” too, and that they were once kids who made mistakes. You can also tell about your siblings or yourself – think of incidents that are funny without being humiliating. Then your grandkids might just tell you more than you wanted to know!
4. Play a Board Game
No matter how electronics-oriented kids are, a good board game can still break the ice. Some board games are more conversation-stimulating than others – try to choose one where the players need to interact.
5. Silence is Okay
Learning to be comfortable when others are silent is an art. Many people feel really awkward with silence, but your grandchildren may actually appreciate the open time and may find it helps them to open up. If you wait for your grandkids to fill in the quiet gaps, they might appreciate you for allowing them to take the initiative. Like some adults, not all kids like small talk.
6. Ask and Talk About Pets
If your grandkids have pets, these can be a great conversation starter. Many children who don’t talk very much will really open up when it comes to their animal friends.
7. Remind Them of Shared Activities
Bring up a shared activity such as going to the beach, one of their ballgames that you attended, or “the time when we….” This is especially effective if something amusing happened. Laughter is often a good way to break the ice because it helps to ease any tension. Once the mood is relaxed, the conversation flows more easily.
As you talk with your grandchildren, make a mental note of the kinds of things they show an interest in and their individual style of communication. Use this info in future conversations to break the ice and get the ball rolling. As things progress, you’ll get the opportunity to slip in a little of your of your own experiences on the particular topic. Remember to keep the focus on the child and not on your experiences, until they ask for more details.