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Dr. Ruth on . . . Becoming an ‘askable grandparent’

Created date

May 30th, 2009

Sociologist Sol Gordon coined the phrase "askable parent." By that he meant parents should make their children feel that if approached with a question or a problem, they ll be given an honest answer and won t risk being punished for broaching certain subjects. You can be an "askable grandparent" as well, meaning that your grandchildren should feel comfortable coming to you for advice. If you ve heard from the parents that a grandchild is having a problem at school, for example, the most you should offer is to let your grandchild know that if he or she wants to talk, you re available. For grandchildren to take this offer seriously, they have to feel confident that the conversation is going to remain private, unless, of course, they ask you to intervene with Mom and Dad. (If they reveal that they are involved with something dangerous, like drugs, then you have to let them know that rule might be broken.) They also have to know you re not going to give them a long-winded lecture. It can be tempting to climb on the soapbox and tell them that when you were a child you did such and such. But your childhood and their lives are very far apart. So your role isn t so much to give advice but rather to act as a sounding board. The role of grandparent is a unique one, but it s certainly not that of a parent. Your grandchildren are not your primary responsibility. Yes, you might raise those children differently, but they re not your children to raise. If your grandchildren appreciate that they re not going to get a lecture every time they re around you, they ll be much more eager to spend time with you. So by being careful about what you say to them, you actually end up having a lot more influence. But if you give in to the need of telling them exactly what you think about the way they re dressed or their behavior, the only result will be that you ll see them a lot less often. Dr. Ruth Westheimer is an author, lecturer, and the relationship expert on RLTV s Daily Caf .