Dear Grandparenting: The best part of being a grandparent is watching the kids grow up and start to make something of themselves.
The hardest part is answering some the tough questions they throw at me. I know it’s best to be truthful, because you’re only as good as your word.
But for the life of me, I get tongue-tied more than I care to admit. How in the world do you respond to “where do people go when they die?” or “why did that boy shoot his friends in school?”
What trick do I pull out of my sleeve when my grandchildren put me on the spot like that? — Mira Andonov, Chicago
Dear Mira: No one has all the answers, not even grandparents who have seen it all. We live in a world that is not always readily explainable to adults, much less children, and there’s no shame in admitting it.
That won’t stop youngsters from asking the tough questions that catch you off guard. What does God look like? Did you ever smoke pot? What is sex about? Why do people keep killing each other? When will my parents get back together?
Honesty is big with us too – OK, we did lie a little about Santa Claus – but there are other do’s and don’ts to consider. Give grandchildren the facts, but at an age-appropriate pace they can manage.
Sometimes a simple “yes” or “no” response to a question works best initially. Children process information slowly and often circle back, so be prepared to revisit the matter several times.
Instead of rushing to answer, pause and get clarification. This buys you time to fully consider the issue at hand and prevents you from blurting out something you may later regret. Children tend to ask questions after they’ve already formed a hypothesis about whatever it is, so it’s important to know what the child is really asking before answering.
If a question is too personal, explain that everyone has certain boundaries and the right to privacy.
When children discuss things that scare them, their bottom-line motivation often is “will I be safe?” For real-world tragedies, reframe their fears in proportion to the actual risk and reassure them adults are doing everything necessary to protect them.
And along the way, endeavor to give your grandchildren a sense of compassion and justice about this world of ours.
Perry Morrison from Jefferson City, Mo., was attempting to arrange to pick up granddaughter Marisa later in the day.
“Life begins at 3 p.m. for me,” declared Marisa.
“Because it’s when school lets out.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.