helping grandchildren

I run a family-service agency to solve hard problems for wealthy families. I’ve learned that parents are busy, tired, distracted, and can be on different wavelengths than their kids. If parents take a vacation with kids, the parents often want to hang at the pool and recharge their batteries rather than take them on an adventure. Parents can get stuck trying to motivate teens and wonder what they can do to get them off their screens and into a more active, productive life. 

Grandparents to the rescue! Today’s grandparents are fitter, smarter, and richer than ever. As a grandparent, you can do things parents can’t and have a huge impact on a child’s life. Here are seven simple examples from our newsletter:

1. Enroll a child in a dual fitness challenge.

You and your grandchild sign up to do something hard, something challenging, something rewarding. Examples are the Tough Mudder challenges, a fundraising campaign for a nonprofit the child is interested in, a running race, cycling event, hill climb, etc. You could rent or borrow a tandem bicycle and ride together to raise money for charity. Hike to the top of a big mountain — one you’ll need to practice and get in shape for (Mount Kilimanjaro comes to mind). Line dancing. Doubles pickleball tournament. Summiting ten of Colorado’s famed fourteener mountains. Even better if it’s far away, so you can train with the child and then take a trip to compete together.

2. Enroll a child in a decathlon challenge.

In his book Outlive, which I highly recommend for all adults, Peter Attia talks about the “senior decathlon,” which is a number of different physical challenges, like stair climbing, jumping rope, swimming, walking, running, lifting weights, etc. Choose ten varied activities and measure your own performance on each one. Then, add a multiplier to each to account for the child’s age and ability. Then challenge the child to a duel on a certain date, and offer a cash prize to the winner. On the big date, invite others to celebrate and document the challenge. Involve other families! Give out awards, prizes, and cash.

3. Give the child the gift of less myopia.

Because of screens and spending less time outdoors, more and more kids are getting myopia (nearsightedness). A company called Treehouse Eyes offers special treatments with the goal of retarding or stopping their myopia. If a child tolerates them, they can prescribe hard contact lenses that the child sleeps in overnight, removes them in the morning, and goes glasses-free for the entire day! If they can’t tolerate the hard lenses, they have soft lenses and drops that can help prevent myopia from getting worse. Most parents don’t know about this. Get involved in their eye care and it could make a huge difference, especially for kids who aren’t excited about wearing glasses all day at school.

4. Travel therapy.

Come up with a destination and a challenge to do together. This is similar to the fitness challenge, but it involves a trip to a destination important to the child. If the child is interested in ancient Egypt, architecture, whitewater rafting, Paris, panda bears, or any other topic, have her design and complete her own course, make a presentation on the topic, and then take her there on a trip to learn in-depth. Have her make a video report and post it to YouTube to show her friends what she learned. If you’ve never been to Africa or Burning Man, check with us — we’ll help you arrange that special adventure with your grandkids they’ll never forget.

5. Start a podcast.

My son is 12. He’s interested in video games and animals, and that’s about it. To get him off the console, I suggested we create a weekly podcast to interview people saving wildlife around the world. Now he has a database of interview candidates, a full calendar, a growing fan base, and he gets to star in a new video each week. He spends hours exploring websites and reaching out to people, and he gets more and more referrals from his interviewees. He prepares and writes questions in advance. It’s building his portfolio, his esteem, gets him out of bed in the morning, and best of all we work together on it almost daily. I do the editing and design work and a lot of coordination, but he’s really energized about it, and the guests are all very impressed that he’s making a difference. His channel is called Nature’s Guardians. You can do all this. All it takes is Zoom and some help. It’s actually fairly easy to hire a remote professional video editor who can do a lot of the work and manage the channel. This gives you and your grandchild 4+ hours of collaboration every week doing something meaningful together.

6. Start your grandchildren thinking in bets.

You can install a money and betting system that will help them resolve their differences and disagreements by betting, rather than fighting. There is a book on this and so many good reasons to try it. It’s applied game theory for kids, and it works. Read my blog post on setting up a money system.

7. Learn a new hobby or skill with your grandchildren.

Maybe they’d like to learn to play an instrument or learn a language or start a business. Tell them you’ll fund it and do it with them. Come up with a plan and do it together. This is great for learning a new skill, which helps keep grandparents sharp, and bonding with your grandkids at the same time. Your granddaughter wants to learn fencing? Congratulations! You always wanted to learn to fence, didn’t you?

These are just a few things grandparents can do to engage teens and play a more active role in their lives. For more ideas, sign up for my newsletter for families by filling out the form on our website: