When You Don't Approve
Dealing with the Different Views of Grandchildren
By Lauren Teegarden
Rebellious teenagers and strong-minded young adults are certainly nothing new, but dealing with (and understanding) them can be as much of a challenge with grandchildren as with children.
Past vs. Present
No one will deny that life has changed drastically in the past two generations; the advent of constant media influence and increased mobility make it so that the morals and values of family groups are not passed down as unchanged as they once were. The question remains--when your grandchildren seem to have developed a different system of right and wrong than those of your youth, what is the proper response?
Balancing Distance and Proximity
One of the greatest divisors between grandparents and grandchildren is unsolicited moral advice. Giving advice is tempting, but it is better ninety percent of the time to remain silent unless asked. A significant part of the "growing up" experience is learning the consequences of your own bad decisions; unfortunately, advice is often a poor substitute for the actual experience.
It is certainly difficult to remain silent when you see your grandchildren making poor decisions. The best way to avoid this discomfort? Consistently emphasize that you are available to your grandchild--as a place of refuge, a listening ear, or anything else. If your grandchildren know that you are available, then you can be assured that whenever a difficult situation arises, they won't hesitate to ask you for advice. If your grandchild is in a unquestionably dangerous situation, however, it may be necessary to intervene.
The Virtue of Patience
Perhaps your grandchildren's current wild lifestyles are disappointing, frustrating, or clearly concerning. That said, remember that young adults mature significantly between high school and their early twenties. With time--and patience--you'll be surprised at how much a rebellious grandchild can change.
More Influence than You Think
Studies have shown that family remains a strong influence in kids' lives--even if teenagers and young adults do not always admit that they are listening to anything you say. Demonstrate by both your words and actions that you care about your grandchildren--regardless of decisions or lifestyle choices that you disagree with--and you will have taken the first step toward helping your grandchildren make good decisions.
Agree to Disagree
In certain situations, it is best to simply accept that there will be a difference in opinion between generations. Don't be so accommodating that your grandchild does not see strong, consistent standards, however. It's not a requirement to hide your disapproval in all situations--just let your grandchildren know that while you disapprove of their decision, you will always love them.
Lauren Teegarden, a high school senior, lives in Portland, Oregon. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.