You can be so much more to your grandchildren than just candy givers, toy buyers and kid spoilers.
You can be a helping hand to your children when they need it, and a trusted listening ear for your grandkids.
Building a strong relationship with your grandchildren can keep you mentally and socially engaged — which could help fight depression and memory loss.
Here are seven ways you can spend meaningful time with your grandchildren:
1. Schedule a 'Grandma and Grandpa date'
Mark it on your calendar so your grandkids know the time is special.
If you have more than one grandchild, try to set up one-on-one time with each of them so they’ll all have individual time with you.
Emphasize that the date is about spending time together — not treats or toys.
2. Encourage thoughtful conversations
Be ready to ask better questions than the generic “How was school?” or “What are you up to lately?”
Giving your grandchildren the opportunity to openly share their thoughts with you can build trust and deepen bonds.
Resist the urge to lecture or add your opinions — just listen.
3. Support their activities
Ask your children to let you know about concerts, plays, athletic games, science fairs and school presentations you could attend.
An extra smiling face in the crowd can give your grandchildren a boost in confidence.
If you can’t make it to the event, set up a Skype performance where your grandkids can practice for you. Long-distance cheers and encouragement are just as supportive.
4. Stay in the loop
Ask your children to write a cheat sheet with keywords, names and facts about your grandkids’ favorite hobbies — games, music, sports, books, whatever they’re into recently.
It will give you something specific to talk about with them.
Your grandchildren’s eyes will light up when you ask about Pokémon or Minecraft, or get tickets to the opening night of the latest movie trilogy.
5. Have storytime
Ask your children what the grandkids’ favorite books are so you can have a few on hand when they visit you.
If you live far away, schedule a Skype read-along session with them, or record yourself reading the books so your grandchildren can hear bedtime stories from Grandma and Grandpa.
Don’t know how to Skype or use your tablet? Check with your local library or senior center about free classes that might be available to help you learn.
6. Share a hobby
Teach your grandkids about one of your favorite hobbies, such as gardening, woodworking, cooking or playing piano.
Your grandchildren will learn new skills, and you’ll get to share something you love to do.
7. Let kids be the teachers
Ask your grandchildren to teach you something they’re excited about, such as a new game, fun app or favorite subject in school.
Kids will love feeling like the helpful experts, and you might learn something new, too.