As promised, I culled some wonderful ideas from the eighty or so retirees I spoke to in Green Valley, Arizona last week. Fortunately my talks ended in lively give and takes and I think I took away as much as I offered them.
The overwhelming impression I was left with was how isolated and out of touch grandparents often feel with respect to teenagers. Here are some ideas for staying in tune with this generation on the go.
ONE: Pick at least one electronic mode of communication. Email, Facebook, cellphone, text messaging, or Skyping are some of the most accessible ones. Use a library or take a course in order to learn these "languages." Without them there is not likely to be much sharing.
TWO: When you see your grandchildren, ask them to show you their Facebook page. Like a scrapbook or a photo album it's a window into their world, their friends and their thoughts.
THREE: Tell them stories. Search for ways that your life relates to theirs: war stories with mesmerizing detail; graphic tales of depression hardship (without too much self-congratulation); how you met your spouse; your best friend growing up; when you were bullied;the dirt on their parents.
FOUR: Share a hobby with them: a card game, a round of golf (with them driving the cart), ping pong, fishing (and learning to clean the catch), chess, or your valuable stamp collection.
FIVE: Rent or see a movie together (You buy the popcorn!) Engage in conversation by asking them what they thought first.
SIX: Expect that interactions may happen in sound "bytes", not lengthy satisfying chapters. Try not to be judgmental about the rapid pace of their lives. Catch them when you can!
SEVEN: After all, tell them you love them.