Toddlers or teens may protest visiting a senior relative. The expectation that they will have to sit quietly and stay off their hand-held devices can certainly be unappealing to the younger generation. However, the attitude that you present when you arrange visits between grandchildren and grandparent, for instance, can have a major influence on how much everyone enjoys the experience. There are simple things that you can do to make the combination of youth and age produce more harmony than discord.
1. Show your children that you are eager to go. Phrases like "We have to visit Nana" or "I know you don't want to go, but Poppa wants to see you" could doom you to failure. Try suggesting, "Let's ask Aunt Louise to tell us about the clothes teenagers used to wear" or "Did you know that Uncle Frank used to drive a race car?" Senior living facilities often have fun attractions like fish tanks, popcorn machines, libraries or live entertainment. You might time a visit to coincide with the ice cream social.
2. Teach your young people something about their senior loved one. Go through the photo album before your visit. Point out that Cousin Leon won trophies for track, GrandDad visited fourteen foreign countries or former-neighbor Jackie cooked for cowboys at a Western ranch. Real details about your loved one's life can show your children that the people they will visit are unique and special.
3. Invent some pastimes to help seniors and young people interact. Try a spelling bee between Gran and your elementary scholars. Ask the teenagers to make cookies in advance. Think up some questions, like "What chores did you do as a kid?" or "What was the strangest food you ever tasted?" to inspire some deep sharing or some giggles. Either way, the generations will learn something about each other.
4. Find out about other people in the senior living facility. By greeting others who live in the same area as your loved one, you can show your children that all people matter. If you take a treat or decoration to your own friend, you can take along extras for your child to give to roommates or table mates. Even little children can make greeting cards; shy youngsters can give a piece of candy; or preteens can demonstrate a magic trick. Ask your teen what they might share: a piano piece, a rap song, the recollection of an amazing play in that week's football game. If they are prepared in advance, they may be less hesitant to open up to loved ones and strangers alike.
Empathy and kindness are skills which can be taught to your children and grandchildren. Don't forget: they may be visiting you someday!
600 E. Elm
Salina KS 67401
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