January 17, 2012

USA: The Truth About Your Grandkids' Parents

NEW YORK, NY / Grandparents.com / Family / January 17, 2012
There are all kinds, and they all bring challenges
by Georgia Witkin, Ph.D.

The Modern Grandparent's Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to the New Rules of Grandparenting
written by Senior Editor, Dr. Georgia Witkin, 
has been published by New American Library.
Here's an excerpt from Georgia's chapter, "The Truth About the Parents," a field guide to modern moms and dads:
The Panicky Parent
Today's parents are smart. They may even betoosmart — too keenly attuned to every possible danger that their children face. It's no wonder they're always on alert; 24-hour news channels fill the screen with constant updates about every abduction, accident, illness outbreak, schoolyard danger, and bus disaster. There are specials on children's learning problems, emotional problems, drug problems, allergies, and eating disorders. Talk shows discuss kids sexting, drinking, cyberbullying, and getting pregnant. The information is so abundant and immediate that our adult children are aware of everything that could ever happen to any child — and many are fearful it could happen to theirs. These fears can turn them into hovering "helicopter dads" and overprotective "smother mothers," ready to swoop in and rescue their children from every scraped knee or hurt feeling.

As grandparents, we can give our grandchildren's parents some perspective. We've been through it. When they were young, they survived riding bikes and climbing trees, viruses and infections, bullying and dead fish.Tell them!Remind parents that safety products like helmets and car seats work, that toys are much safer now, and that medicines have childproof caps. Help your children become more realistic about their children's lives by remembering their own childhood. Only you can do that. You were there then, and you're here now. Sometimes being a grandparent means parenting your grandchildren's parent all over again.
The Child-Centered Parent
Many parents today put their children at the center of the family. This doesn'tsoundlike a bad thing. Putting the kids ahead of their own needs, even ahead of their marriage, may seem child-friendly, but when it becomes extreme, it can lead to complications.
When a child is the absolute center of the family, she can grow up without boundaries. This can lead to a demanding, entitled kid and, eventually, a demanding, entitled adult. Some acting out might be accepted from a child, but future bosses and spouses will not be so tolerant.
Furthermore, being the center of the family is too much pressure for a child. Kids cannot fulfill all their parents' emotional needs and it's not fair to expect them to. Children in this position often feel they need to parent their parents — and that's not their job. It's yours. Be there for your children when they become parents. Remind them to take time for themselves and their spouses or partners. Offer to babysit. They can have a date night or weekend getaway, and you can spend extra time with your grandkids.
The Distracted Parent
Every grandparent can see it: When parents are stressed, children are stressed. It's like a virus that spreads from grown-ups to children. Children learn by watching, so when they don't get to see their parents relax, they're not learning stress management. They are learning to do what their parents do —distractthemselves instead of relax themselves. When parents spend time at the computer, playing with apps, watching TV, so do their children. Here's how to help your distracted child and your grandchild at the same time:
1. More Face Time.When the family is at your house, ban TV, texting, or answering e-mail at dinner or during "family time." Tell your child that you don't want to miss out on precious moments, and that you don't want your grandchild to think that they can distract themselves from the family, either. You're giving them an island of peace, and giving them ideas about family time that they can take back to their own home. And when your grandchildren are with you alone, give them as much face-to-face time as you can. Researchers find that face-to-face time from grandparents correlates with less anxiety in young children and less delinquency in teens.
2. Less Junk.Sometimes our children are so busy that they say yes to junk food without even realizing it, or pass it out as a pacifier or reward. (Actually, sometimes we grandparents do this, too.) But the Centers for Disease Control warns that child and adolescent obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and that our grandchildren are chugging down three times as much soda as our children did.
Help your child and grandchild by fighting the urge to say yes to junk. I know that as grandparents we want every visit to be "the best," and so we treat our grandchildren to their favorites, including fast-food lunch. Think twice. Go just once in a while. At least you'll save your child from hearing your grandchildren say, "But Grandma lets us have candy!"
3. More Manners.Teaching children manners takes time, so manners are becoming scarcer as parents become more distracted. We may understand and sympathize, but we're also upset about watching some children run wild in supermarkets and talk back to their parents.
Politeness, kindness, respect for others, generosity, and empathy will all help children in life, so we want our grandchildren to develop these virtues sooner rather than later. Helping children learn manners is one area where grandparents rarely get flak. Most parents are thrilled if their child comes home from grandma's neater or more polite.
Parenting our children doesn't stop when they become parents. In fact, when they are stressed and distracted, they need us more than ever. We know what worries them and how to reassure and comfort them. We know what they are going through, because we've been there and done that. We know what we needed when we were harried parents, and what our parents might have done to helpus. Now we can pass it on. After all, when we are parenting our adult children, we are grandparenting at our best too!
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