University of Illinois Extension

Keeping Your Wits as the Children Grow

Children go through different stages as they grow. As a grandparent, you see a lot of differences through the generations. Children physically mature more quickly and are exposed to more at younger ages. Parenting is harder, and even with your experience raising children, you will find that the same is really different.

Infants need to connect with people. Before the most current research on the brain, it was speculated that children didn't "learn" or "think" until they were able to talk. Now we know that young infants need to connect to people in order to learn and think. They learn to communicate their needs by having you pick them up and comfort them. Very young children are learning that the people who care for them will be there to meet their needs.

Toddlers are exploring their world. They do not understand cause-and-effect, and they experiment to see what happens. They do not understand that their actions have consequences. While this is frustrating, we have to remember that it is our responsibility as adults to teach them.

Preschool children are exuberant and seem to be moving all the time. They have more skillful movements, but don't let them fool you! They really don't know as much as they appear to know. They are still exploring, testing their new knowledge about cause-and-effect, and often act like little scientists.

School age children really need you to be involved. They might appear to be more self-sufficient, but they need you to be at their school, at their events, and to talk about what they are doing all the time. As they move into early adolescence, they will need you even more even if they act as though they don't care. Talk with their friends. Get to know all their teachers.

Teenagers are a lot like toddlers. They will argue about what they can and can't do. They will argue about what is safe and not safe. They will question your judgement and think they can do things that they are not ready to do. They still need you to be there for them, even if they act like they don't need you. They also need time alone, and with their friends. Even when they act distant and independent, they need for you to be involved in their lives.

Remember that children are still children. Generations have differences, and it is important to recognize those differences. Share your knowledge and your experiences with your grandchildren, and always be there to support them the best you can.