March 27, 2015 Healthy Living

Connecting With Your Outer Child

As Harry Potter novelist J.K. Rowlings wrote, “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

Grandparents and other mature adults have a golden opportunity to pass on a legacy and help new people learn about the world. It’s a responsibility that can also be a lot of fun! If you are fortunate enough to have grandchildren or other youthful relatives, make an effort to stay in touch. A relationship with a child can be rewarding for both parties. The adult receives energy, laughter, affection and activity. The child can benefit from your knowledge, stability and unconditional love.

Social relationships are key in staying healthy. An analysis of 148 studies by researchers from Brigham Young University found that people who have strong social ties with family or friends have a 50 percent lower risk of dying over a given period than those with fewer social connections. A survey by the National Council on Aging, United Healthcare and USA TODAY of more than 4,000 seniors revealed that links with family and friends was highly rated as an important factor to maintain quality of life.

You can be that awesome auntie, uncle, grandmom or grandpop! Need some tips on how to relate to young people? Try these techniques to break the ice with your little friends:

  • Remember, they are people! The best way to find out what is going on with a child is simply to ask. Then listen to what they say about their music, hobbies, worries and friends.
  • Don’t try to buy their affection. Gift-giving is fine within reason, but a truly rewarding relationship will be built upon shared activities. The memories you create together will be treasured long after the toys lie broken.
  • Most kids love the outdoors, so trips to the park and day hikes are excellent ways to spend quality time together. Even something as simple as throwing sticks into a stream can be a fascinating pastime for a little one.
  • Do you have hobbies that you can pass on to your young relative? Teaching simple baking, knitting or gardening skills might create a shared area of interest.
  • Listen to music together. Learn about the tunes of today but also play them the golden oldies that you loved when you were young. They might even learn a few dance moves from you!
  • Talk about your history. As a living ancestor, you can help youngsters get a sense of their roots.
  • Be reliable and keep your promises. Teach by example and model the behaviors you would like to see in the future generation.

Building a relationship with any human being takes time and energy, but it shouldn’t be “all give and no get.” Making friends with a child will help you see the world through new eyes, find purpose and share a special bond that will make the world a little brighter for both of you.


Photo by Oakley Originals / CC BY

Anne Fernandez
About the Author

Dr. Fernandez joined CDPHP in 2012 as a medical director in the behavioral health department. Previously, she worked as a psychiatrist at St. Peter’s Healthcare in Albany and St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center clinics throughout the Capital District. Dr. Fernandez received a medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook, an MBA in health systems administration from Union College, a master’s in science and technology studies from RPI, and a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College. She is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology.

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