Have you been worrying about your teenage grandchild’s mental health? Me too. And, we’re not alone.
The teen mental health crisis continues to be a significant public health issue, and in recent years the disruptions of the pandemic have only worsened its effects. Even without a pandemic, work-related, familial, or personal issues can arise and cause us to worry. These feelings are common and happen to the best of us.
Stress is a part of life.
For young people, with less life experience, they may not be as prepared for this period of rapid development and significant emotional changes. The more we understand teens and stress, the better we, as grandparents, will be equipped to support our teenaged grandchild’s well-being.
We’ve survived the hardships of our own teen years. We raised our children, now adults, through their teenaged years. We are prepared, even trained, you could say, to step up to support our grandchildren.
By supporting our grandchildren, we show care to our adult children as well. For teens, grandparents can act as mentors or confidants, serving as emotionally supportive figures they can come to. The age distance affords a unique emotional closeness. (As side note, I always recommend talking to your grandchild’s parents first before tackling difficult topics. You know what works best in your family.)
Study Says: Grandparents Do Make a Difference
A 2009 study published by The Journal of Family Psychology found that adolescents who had a closer relationship with a grandparent had fewer negative mental health symptoms than those who didn’t. Among more than 1500 adolescents ages 11-16, greater grandparent involvement was associated with fewer emotional problems (Klein, 2009).
The Power or Empathy
Grandparents, with their wisdom and age, are natural empathizers. This can be a strategic alliance for parents in this difficult time as well. Sharing struggles as a teen to a parent figure might feel like it automatically triggers an immediate parenting “let me fix it” response. Sometimes, all that a teen wants is to talk through the situation and feel heard. Talk to your adult children and offer to be that sounding board.
You Are Ready: Five things you can do to support your teenage grandchildren’s mental health:
That means providing a safe, judgment-free space for your grandchildren to share. Let them know you support them, and they can be open and honest with you.
Continue to love them unconditionally.
Good news! Loving your grandchildren unconditionally comes so naturally to us grandparents. Your grandchildren need to know they always have a loving heart to lean on whenever they need it.
Come closer across all three generations.
Their parents. Your adult children. The glue that holds the generations together. When grandparents and grandchildren become closer, all three generations thrive. Don’t forget to apply that empathy and love to your adult children as well.
Be close but separate.
You’re the grandparent, not the parent. As much as you want to protect them, your grandchildren have to learn their own lessons in life. Love them but let them experience the world through their own eyes. The world IS different today, and its their world. Stop to listen and learn from them.
Make room for joy.
With all the struggles and stress and challenges, don’t forget to mix in time for simple joys. It’s important to be there and to listen to your grandchildren…including listening to the silences. Sit together. Simply be. And have some ice cream. It still works on teenagers, and grandparents too!
Attar-Schwartz S., Tan JP., Buchanan A., Flouri E., Griggs J., (2009, Feb 23) Grandparenting and adolescent adjustment in two-parent biological, Lone-parent, and step-families. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19203161/
Klein Y., (2021, January 04). The positive impact of the grandchild-grandparent bond on mental health. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/mental-health-grandparent-bond/
Additional Mental Health Resources:
Bruce. “Home – Teenmentalhealth.org.” Mental Health Literacy, Mental Health Literacy, 19 Jan. 2022, https://mentalhealthliteracy.org/.
“No Shame on U.” No Shame On U, https://www.noshameonu.org/.
“Websites Especially for Teens.” Websites Especially for Teens | William James INTERFACE Referral Service, https://interface.williamjames.edu/guide/websites-especially-teens#resources