It can be challenging for children to understand the concept that a beloved grandparent has dementia. However, many coping methods and smart strategies can help kids of all ages come to terms with the situation and develop new bonds with their grandmas and grandpas. This guide will look at some tips and techniques for various age groups.
Age: 3-5 years
At the youngest of ages, when they’re still learning the basics of the world and understanding the fundamentals of interaction with other people, children can have some trouble connecting with grandparents with dementia. They may be unable to understand why their grandpa or grandma requires different or special treatment.
At this age, it’s important to teach little ones to be extra gentle and caring with their grandparents, setting a good example and reminding them to be careful. Such a tender age is too young for serious caregiving roles or responsibilities, but young children can still enjoy interactions with their grandparents.
A good way to get kids to spend time with their grandparents is to encourage them to engage in simple sensory activities together. Playing with dementia toys or sensory objects, for example, or listening to gentle music, can provide happy moments for children and their elderly relatives.
Age: 6-9 years
As children enter the 6-9 year age bracket, they can start to understand more complicated concepts and develop different relationships with the people around them, especially family members. At this age, most children should be ready to hear about dementia and develop a base-level understanding of it.
Talk to children about how dementia works, using simple words and terms. Parents can explain, for example, that a grandma or grandpa’s mind doesn’t work quite as quickly or as well as it once did and that they forget things sometimes. They can explain that a grandparent with dementia needs a little more patience and special care.
Many children will be very compassionate and understanding when they learn about this. They can then be taught the best ways to interact with their grandparent, such as speaking slowly and clearly with them, playing very simple games, and using basic communication techniques to build their relationship.
Age: 10-13 years
As kids approach their teenage years, their brains will have developed much more, allowing them to take in and understand more complex concepts. At this age, they should be perfectly capable of understanding the basics of what dementia is and some of the science behind it, along with comprehending the typical symptoms and associated issues.
10-13-year-olds can be taught comprehensively about what dementia is and may even be given one or two caregiving roles or responsibilities to help out their grandparents. They can also engage with their grandpa or grandma in various active and exciting ways through things like puzzles, games, or even crafts and other creative activities.
Kids of this age may also have mixed emotions about their grandparents with dementia or have questions they might be cautious or fearful about voicing. Please encourage them to share their feelings and emotions related to dementia and have open, frank conversations about the subject to prevent them from bottling things up.
Age: 14-18 years
In their teenage years, as they start to approach adulthood and independence, young adults can be entrusted with more knowledge, information, and responsibility. There’s no need to hide things, sugarcoat the situation, or simplify the subject with a child of this age, as they should be capable and mature enough to hear the truth about their grandparents.
At this age, teens should be encouraged to actively participate in caregiving tasks that can help their grandparents as long as they show a willingness and desire to do so. They can help out with many things, from engaging with their grandparent and speaking with them to assisting with household chores and tasks.
However, it’s still worth noting that teens may have difficulties accepting the changes in their grandparents, especially if they were very close with them growing up and then saw dementia gradually creep in. They may have fears, worries, and doubts that need to be expressed, so they should be encouraged to open up, seek support, and consider their own self-care and emotional well-being.
As we can see, no matter what age a child is, there are many ways for them to safely and enjoyably interact with a grandparent with dementia. Whether through simple sensory toys and activities or more mature caregiving duties, the options are numerous and varied, and young children, older kids, and teens can develop fulfilling and engaging relationships with their grandparents.