Spending time with grandparents may seem like a piece of cake in a small country like Singapore where most extended families live within easy reach of each other. But many of us find ourselves groping for conversation topics after the usual “Have you eaten?” greetings when we visit our grandparents.

A 2015 survey of families here found that nearly half visit their elderly relatives at least once a week. However, only 28% of older folks reported discussing their personal lives with their grandchildren. Clearly, being under the same roof doesn’t mean that communication takes place.

But connecting with the seniors in our family need not be so hard. Here are some ways we can help the kids, and ourselves, get the conversation going with Grandpa and Grandma.

1. Ask open-ended questions

“What was an interesting thing that happened to you this week?” “Tell me about your best friends.” Get the ball rolling by asking open-ended questions like these instead of questions that elicit a yes-no answer. It shows your loved ones that you are interested in and want to find out more about their lives.

2. Inject some humour

Silly humour and sharing amusing observations can be a great way to break the ice and lighten the mood. Get your kid to share with Gramps about how he wore his t-shirt inside out for an entire day or a funny meme from social media. Not only will it generate a few laughs, it also gives Gramps an opening to share about his own minor mishaps and other personal anecdotes.

3. Share family stories

Grandparents are a rich source of family stories. Get Granny to tell the kids about the time that dad was bad or mum was fab! Your offspring will not only delight in hearing about dad and mum’s growing pains, it also reveals a human side to the parental authority figures they are more familiar with.

4. Establish family traditions

Small family rituals can pave the way for conversation between the younger and older folks in the family. Taking the family pet out for a walk together with Grandpa or having Sunday breakfast with Grandma at the neighbourhood hawker centre gives junior a chance to update them about his life.

5. Teach a skill

At their age, grandparents are natural experts in certain skills. It could be dishing up a killer chicken curry or mending a favourite outfit. What better way to close the generation gap than for the grands to impart their time-honed talents or skills to the youngsters in the family? Not only will they have more common topics to talk about, it might be the start of a new hobby or interest for the kids!