BY KERRY BYRNE, PH.D.
September can mark the beginning of novelty and transition for your grandchildren.
But during this period of time, don’t forget the parents!
Because for them, work can mean a ton of deadlines as companies regroup after staff being on summer holiday.
Or new demands from a workplace wanting to make the most of the last quarter of the year.
And then of course, for many parents, they are simultaneously getting kids ready for a new beginning, whether it’s their first day of daycare or college.
Studies of parents at this time of year highlight that many parents feel anxious and their own kind of back-to-school stress.
A study conducted by The Harris Poll among over 550 US parents of children under age 18, revealed a few findings that will be of interest to grandparents.
“Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) parents of children under 18 reported that back-to-school season causes them stress or anxiety, with over half of parents (53%) agreeing that back-to-school season is the most stressful time of the year.”
As a parent currently in the throes of preparing to send 2 kids back to school this week, this doesn’t surprise me.
In our home, we try to keep the kids on a set schedule in terms of at least eating and sleeping, but the summer has dealt us a few personal blows and this has resulted in what could be described as a non-routine approach or realistically, a survival technique!
Regardless of what we call it, it means the kids have been up late, sleeping in, and offered Nutella toast for a bedtime snack more often than I care to admit.
So, a 7 a.m. start next week is going to be a hustle for us.
This, combined with my oldest who has a food allergy that causes a fair bit of stress, and my youngest who much prefers his daycare to school because all they do at school is ‘learn and learn and learn all day’.
When he would of course, much rather play and head to the local parks! And I would say that relatively speaking, I am calm when they go back to school and welcome the routine – it’s just a transition that makes me feel a touch overwhelmed.
Why am I sharing this with all of you?
Mostly because the connection time with your grandchildren might feel minimal for the next few weeks as parents and kids adjust to all the novelty the start of the year brings with it.
So, if they aren’t as responsive right now, remember it could really just be overwhelming, with a variety of different stresses they are facing.
But there are quiet ways you can support your grands and their parents from a distance right now, which might not feel like a ‘connection’ but count as a consistent touchpoint with your grands while everyone finds their footing.
Let’s start with the parents
- Send an encouraging message to the parents and let them know they don’t have to respond; you just want them to know you are thinking of them.
A simple text to say: Thinking of you today as [insert name] embarks on a new adventure in daycare/grade 4/college…. is all you need to do.
- Offering some encouragement and a genuine reflection about their awesomeness as a parent will be welcome support as well. You can find some ideas about what kind of messages to send the parents here: The Parents Are Your Most Important Partners
- Or you could mail or email a 5-dollar gift card for their fave coffee shop with a note encouraging them to grab a peaceful kid-free coffee on you.
And finally, let them know that if they can’t make it to a pre-scheduled video chat, it’s all good. You can skip this week and will look forward to hearing all about life next week or when the back-to-school dust settles.
Sometimes supporting your adult children from a distance can mean stepping back a bit to give them time to sort through this time of year.
It’s hard and might not feel great for you. But for them, knowing you are there in the wings, cheering them on and not adding pressure, can feel massively supportive to them.
For your grandchildren
For your grands, especially the ones who text, you can be their grand cheerleader from a distance, shoring up their self-esteem with positive messages.
Try a Fabulous Friday text where you send something you think is fabulous about them on Friday mornings.
You might not hear back, but trust me, the words mean a lot and sink in, especially over time, so don’t give up!
Check out this blog for more ideas about some fun things to mail to your grandchildren in and around the back-to-school frenzy.
If you text a parent to reach a school-aged child, don’t forget that sending a back-to-school joke for them to share with friends is a great low-pressure connection that offers something useful and says I’m thinking of you.
You can video yourself telling the joke, write it out in a text, or send it in the mail. In the blog above, I shared several to choose from.
And…..while they are busy with back to school, you can deepen your own learning with something called Grandparents Week.
It’s a free event but you do have to register. You can find out more about it here:
There are sessions about screen time and kids, child development, artificial intelligence, sharing your legacy, how to partner with the parents, and letter writing to your grandchildren.
There are over 23 speakers, spread out over the week, and all are created especially for grandparents.
I’ll be presenting the latest on Grandparenting from a Distance and would obviously love you to join me for that session, but truly there are so many topics being covered that week that it’s for sure worth checking out!
I’ve already signed up so I will see you there!
Note: If you choose to get the upgrade pass I might receive a small commission from GrandparentsAcademy.That’s all for now!
Read more from Dr. Byrne here