Thursday, August 19, 2010


Starting the new “school” year impacts all kids…kids going to child care, pre-school, elementary, middle, high school and college. It also can affect us, as any kind of change in our family’s life can.

If your family lives locally, you’ll most likely see some of the behavioral manifestations up close. If you live far away, you may hear from the parents and/or the great/grandchildren about the transition. What, if anything should be our role in this potentially highly-charged family growth period?

With new expectations, there can be all kinds of emotions: elation, irritability, concern, etc. We need to be supportive of the parents and kids, and opine only when asked. The parents are probably a bit overwhelmed themselves, especially if they both work. With all the possible effects of change, think about the most helpful ways to keep things balanced. Try to remember that our expectations may not be theirs.

There can certainly be the urge to go out and buy new clothes, uniforms, school supplies, etc. but this is another chance for us to use your best communication skills, and buy ONLY what the parents have given us permission to buy. If the parents ask you to help with the shopping, ask them for guidelines about what to buy. For example, your great/grandchild may want to look like Beyonce or Justin Bieber, but the parents want a more conservative look. The time to make these decisions is not at the mall, when a “dream outfit” is seen on a mannequin. Talk about the items to be bought (pants, shoes, blouses, uniforms, etc.) - first with the parents and then with the great/grandchild in advance of the shopping trip. Some compromises can be ironed out ahead of time. With young children, it’s probably best to do the shopping on your own…who needs to drag a young child through the confusion or the congestion in a mall?

You can also offer to take care of the great/grandchildren, while the parents go to “school preparedness” meetings or shopping. They may take the older kids with them and leave the younger ones with you, or leave them all in your care. Either way, it’s a “gift” the parents will surely appreciate.

If you are not financially able to help, explain this to the parents, and perhaps you can “give” of your time…or just plain ole’ moral support. If you are lucky enough to be crafty (knitting, sewing, building a new desk or chair, etc.), perhaps you can make something that would be welcomed by the family.

If you are a “distance” great/grandparent, you could start a journal, send it off in a self-addressed stamped envelope, and ask the child to write or draw something about their experience, and send it back to you. This can be an ongoing “story” that can last a lifetime.