Tips for Talking on the Telephone to Grandchildren

Children of Different Ages Require Different Phone Techniques

Grandparents, it has been said, are people who take delight in hearing babies breathing into the phone. That may be true, but it's even more fun to talk to grandchildren when they can answer. These telephone tips will help long-distance grandparents connect with their grandchildren, no matter what age they are.

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Talking to Babies

A Baby Playing with a mobile phone talking to grandparents
Even very young children respond to a grandparent's voice on the phone. Studio Forza / Getty Images

Most babies are intrigued by phones, probably because adults spend so much time using them. Before babies are a year old, they respond to voices that they hear on the phone. Their eyes widen, and they often pull away and look at the phone as if trying to figure out where Grandma's voice is coming from. Typically they snuggle back up to the phone, ready for another listen. At this stage, you'll want to use simple words and short sentences. Begin by identifying yourself with whatever grandparent name you have chosen. Wait for a response. Babies often mimic the conversational patterns of adults even if they don't use words. Keep conversations short, and develop a pattern of using some of the same phrases and sentences. Babies love repetition.

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Telephone Tips for Toddlers

Toddler grandchildren can listen to a grandparent's voice and also carry on a conversation.
As grandchildren reach toddler age, they can not only listen to a grandparent but also carry on their share of the conversation. Photo © Sergiy Nykonenko / Dreamstime

Toddlers are busy! At this stage, they may be interested in talking to grandparents, or they may be involved in their own pursuits. It may help if you call at a specific time of day, perhaps as their day is winding down. If your toddler grandchild is uninterested in talking, don't push it. Continue to identify yourself by using some of the same phrases and sentences that you used earlier, but branch out. Ask very specific questions, as toddlers typically don't respond well to general inquiries. "Are you playing with your blocks?" is better than "What are you doing?" Toddlers also may have difficulty remembering what they did earlier in the day. Focus on what's going on right now. If the family has pets, questions about pets are often well-received.

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Tips for Preschoolers and School-Age Children

Talking to school-age grandchildren on the phone can be great fun for grandparent and grandchild.
Talking to school-age grandchildren on the phone can be great fun as you get to hear about friends, sports, school and many other activities. Photo © Svitlana10 / Dreamstime

If your grandchildren are preschoolers or school-age, your choice of subject matter widens considerably. Do not, however, be guilty of asking that hoary old chestnut, "What did you learn in school today?" Questions about their friends and their activities are much more likely to draw enthusiastic responses. If grandchildren are involved in sports or lessons, it's helpful to keep up with their schedules. "Did you practice the balance beam today?" is a much better question than "What did you do in gymnastics?" Continue to use the phrases and sentences that you have used in the past. These cement your identity as an important part of your grandchild's life.

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Talking to Tweens

Talk to your tween grandchildren on the phone before they totally convert to texting.
Talk to your tween grandchildren on the phone before they totally convert to texting. Photo © Nikhil Gangavane / Dreamstime

Tween-age grandchildren, ages 9 to 12, are on the cusp of teenager-hood, so make the most of this time. Be sensitive to their moods. If they want to talk, great. If not, call back another time. Their peers are increasingly important to them, so try to keep up with their friends and ask specific questions about them. If they have a problem, don't feel you have to solve it. Just listen. Continue to keep up with their sports and extra-curricular activities, and be sure to call after games, performances and competitions, but keep the emphasis on the overall experience, not on their performance. Some tweens may have their own phones. If so, they are probably into texting, and that's another skill for grandparents to master. See below.

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Texting Teens

Teen grandchildren love texting, so grandparents had better learn to text, too.
Teen grandchildren love texting, so grandparents had better learn to text, too. Photo © Brad Wynnk / Dreamstime

If you have teenage grandchildren, good luck getting to talk to them! They'd rather be texting. That means that grandparents should learn to text, too. You don't have to use texting shortcuts or abbreviations. If your grandchildren use ones that you don't know, just ask them to explain. They'll love teaching grown-ups something. You can have actual phone conversations with teenage grandchildren, but set it up ahead of time -- by text, of course! Once again, keeping up with their schedules and knowing their friends will help you ask relevant questions. If they have conflicts with their parents, it's usually a bad idea to side with them against their parents. Just listen and try to remain neutral.

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Phone Tips for Young Adults

Grandparents must respect the demanding lifestyles of their young adult grandchildren.
With young adult grandchildren, grandparents must be respectful of the demands on their time, but they should still be able to work in a few phone conversations. Photo © Valeriy Evlakhov / Dreamstime

Wow! Your young adult grandchildren are grown and out on their own--sort of. In a way, you've come full circle. Just as you worked around their feeding and sleeping schedules when they were infants, now you must be respectful of their schedules and other demands on their time. You'll need to cut conversations short when they're not in the mood to talk and be available when there's something on their minds. Don't ask questions that put them on the spot, such as questions about grades, jobs and finances. If they want to share, they'll share. You'll probably still do a lot of texting, but your grandchildren are probably recognizing the value of real conversations.