By Karen L. Rancourt L. RANCOURT – AKA – Ask Grandma Karen
Summertime for many families means vacations and more time together for grandparents and grandchildren. Yes, grandchildren can push our hot buttons, but not using certain phrases may head off some conflict.
- Don’t say, “Let’s not tell your parents about . . . this purchase we made against their wishes . . . that we let you see a movie they did not want you to see.” You never want to put your grandchildren in the position of keeping secrets from their parents. Instead, say (and do), “We need to check this out with your mom and dad first.”
- Don’t say, “Be grateful I’m not your mom/dad because I would . . . ground you for a month . . . make you clean you room right this minute . . . ” This kind of a statement may make them question their parents’ competence, and can be confusing to your grandchildren because they love both you and their parents. Say instead, “I am upset that you did such and such (e.g., yelled at me) because it makes me feel such and such (e.g., disrespected).”
- Don’t say, “When I was your age,” unless you are invited to share your experiences. Grandchildren often are very interested in your advice and experiences, but timing can be critical. Sometimes they are too upset or self focused to care what you have to say. Instead, say, “Would it be helpful if I told you about how it was for me when I was your age when a similar thing happened?” When the answer is yes, it is time to share. DDD
- Don’t say, “What were you thinking . . . when you dyed your hair purple . . . got a nose stud . . .” Instead, take as many deep breaths as necessary until you are ready to say, “Help me understand . . . this is new to me.”
- Don’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of . . . when the room is dark . . . going on that amusement park ride . . . ” The fear is real and should not be trivialized or minimized. Instead, say, “Can you explain exactly what you’re afraid of?” This acknowledges the fear and makes it possible to have a conversation. It’s important to feed back the fears to make sure you really get it: “You are afraid that if you go on that roller coaster it will break and you will fall and get hurt. Is that right?” Grandchild concurs, corrects, or expands your summary of the situation.
Yes, avoidance of certain communication showstoppers can result in more enjoyable grandparent-grandchild interactions.
Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D., writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts.