Is your grand too busy to connect?
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY
I was talking to a good friend the other day. I could tell she was a little down and asked why.
“I sent my grandson a check for his birthday a few months ago,” she replied, “and I haven’t heard from him. I mentioned it to my son. He said my grandson is just “too busy” with college homework, trying out for a fraternity, and those sorts of things. But it hurts my feelings that he hasn’t called.”
“Have you told him that?” I asked.
Many of us have been in this situation. We call the grandchild and instead of spending the precious time connecting, we ask why we haven’t heard from them and he or she explains and maybe gets exasperated. In the end, the conversation often leaves grandparent and grandchild equally frustrated.
How can you break that cycle?
Call out: You might consider teaching your grandchild about your needs, at this time in your life. I live on my own and life can get lonely.
First, use “I” language. When we start with “you” the other person is immediately on the defense. “You haven’t called me,” is not a good conversation starter.
Understand and teach your grandchild that, “I am very busy” is a barrier statement that can stop interaction in its tracks or present an opportunity for grandparent and grandchild to share information about each other’s world.
For my grandchild, the stress of college is real. There are papers, exams, and social pressures. I get it; I’ve been there. When a grandchild says, “I was too busy to call,” perhaps the best response from you is, “Tell me about what’s going on in your life. What’s keeping you so busy?” Saying, “I understand, I was there, it’s a lot of pressure,” helps a grandchild feel supported.
You might consider teaching your grandchild about your needs at this time in your life. I live on my own and life can get lonely. Sure, I have friends, a companion, and am active in the community. But nothing beats answering the phone and hearing, “Hi Grandpa” on the other end. So, it’s okay for me to say, “Bobby I love you very much and I need your love. I want us to stay connected. Let’s set a time to talk each week or every two weeks.”
Call out: A grandparent can help get the conversation on the right track by recognizing what “busy” really means…it could be deeper anxiety about schoolwork and life demands.
After he corrects you that he is now “Bob,” you can come up with a plan that works for both of you. Maybe you agree he’ll text you to let you know (and hopefully thank you) that he received whatever you send. Or tell him sending you a text just to say “Hi” is always welcome because it feels like a hug. Then you can plan for more time together during college breaks.
And in a feat of intergenerational adjustment (for you), you can agree to leave shorter voice mails if he promises to listen to them, and you can work on shorter text messages, even if the bad grammar and misspelled/abbreviated words make you cringe. Try to channel e.e. cummings: ”If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”
It could take less time simply to check in rather than to explain the reasons you are too busy for a longer exchange.
A grandparent can help get the conversation on the right track by recognizing what “busy” really means…it could be deeper anxiety about schoolwork and life demands. And you can find that out and offer support if you don’t focus on the guilt of not calling. Preaching is a one-way street, while teaching runs both ways. Grandparents who set the teaching tone open the conversation and enjoy the love flowing back and forth.
About the Author – Jerry Witkovsky
What ideas have you implemented in your family? How do you unleash your creativity and unique gifts to transform your family? Please share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author of The Grandest Love and a long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate grandpa, author Jerry Witkovsky offers fresh approaches to help grandparents enter their grandchild’s world, to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy.www.thegrandestlove.com.