It’s time to stop saying these six sentences to your grandchildren. This is why.

By | December 21, 2023

The holiday season is typically a time when families from generations gather to celebrate with each other. As grandparents, you want all your family members to feel happy, loved and connected in your company. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes unintentional or even well-intentioned comments from grandma and grandpa “can create an environment in which grandchildren feel uncomfortable or insecure,” says Ann-Louise Lockhart, a child psychologist and president of A New Day Pediatric Psychology. in San Antonio, told HuffPost.

That’s why it’s important to be more aware of the way we communicate with our grandchildren, not just at this time, but all year round.

“It can be difficult to change the way you say things, but it’s important to be intentional with your words and be aware of how much words can impact the way your grandchildren think and feel about themselves and their relationship with you,” Lockhart said.

We asked Lockhart and other experts what common expressions are best to avoid and what to say instead.

Before we get into it, though, if you’ve used any of the phrases below before (or will make a mistake in the future), try not to worry too much or beat yourself up for it.

“It’s never too late to become more aware of the way you approach interacting with your grandchildren,” says Andrea Dorn, psychotherapist and author of the children’s book series “Mindful Steps.”

1. “Don’t tell your parents…”

Maybe it’s giving your grandkids an extra Christmas cookie (or two) behind their parents’ backs, or letting them stay up past their bedtime and whispering, “It’ll be our little secret.” Any time you encourage your grandchildren to keep something from their parents, it can be harmful, Atlanta clinical psychologist Zainab Delawala told HuffPost.

“It undermines parental authority, which can have long-lasting consequences,” she said. “Additionally, it models for children that they can find themselves in situations where it is in their ‘best interest’ not to tell their parents. This can be especially dangerous if a child is being groomed by a predator or feels bad about themselves because they are being bullied.”

Instead, you want to emphasize the importance of being honest with their parents – no matter what.

“Grandparents can find other ways to love their grandchildren without crossing the boundaries their parents set,” Delawalla said.

2. “You’re getting so big! Have you arrived?”

Comments about a child’s body or weight are a “big no,” Lockhart said, because they can contribute to body image and self-esteem issues.

“As responsible adults, it is our duty to support and encourage children to be confident in their own skin,” she said. “Let’s not make comments that could potentially damage their self-esteem and lead to insecurity. I hear about it all the time in my practice, from young children to adults. These kinds of harsh comments from grandparents are remembered and repeated again and again.”

Therapists explain why grandparents should consider avoiding this type of language when spending time with their grandchildren.

Therapists explain why grandparents should consider avoiding this type of language when spending time with their grandchildren.

Therapists explain why grandparents should consider avoiding this type of language when spending time with their grandchildren.

Dorn also told HuffPost that comments or comparisons about physical appearance can be problematic. Think about things like: “Have you lost weight?” or “Wow, you’re so much bigger than your brother now!”

“The problem with comments about physical appearance or comparisons to others is that they place more emphasis on the importance of external characteristics than internal qualities,” she said.

Instead, she suggested saying something like: “It’s great to see you again! I missed the time with you. How have you been?” Open-ended questions about your grandchildren’s current interests, activities or hobbies are also great.

“Being genuinely interested in who children are inside makes them feel seen and heard, and sends the message that every person can be valued for who they are and that people are more than just what they look like or what they wear. Dorn said.

3. “Wow, you ate more than me!”

Any comments about your grandchildren’s food intake – “You eat so fast,” “You’re a member of the clean plate club,” “It looks like you haven’t touched anything on your plate” – are best kept to yourself.

“Learning about food and hunger cues is an important developmental step in childhood,” Dorn said. “Comments about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eating habits can influence children to change their eating behavior in response to someone else’s comments or perspective, rather than following the signals their body is giving them. It can also evoke feelings of shame or confusion at the time or over time.”

There’s really no need to comment on your grandchildren’s plates or their eating habits. But if you’re going to speak up, Dorn recommended focusing on the importance of listening to your body.

“You can also model this practice by listening to your own body, stopping when you feel full, and eating when you are hungry,” she said. “Modelling good eating habits is more important than any comment we can make.”

4. “You’re so spoiled.”

The overstimulation and lack of routine around the holidays can bring out strong emotions and difficult behavior in children. If you see your grandchild behaving ungratefully while opening a mountain of presents or throwing a fit because he doesn’t get his way, you may be tempted to comment about how spoiled he is.

But before you do, think about it: children acting out at this time of year is very common and normal. If this type of behavior occurs fairly consistently, it probably has less to do with the child and more to do with the way they were raised.

As Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist from Pasadena, California, told HuffPost, “If they are acting entitled and ungrateful, this may be behavior they have learned or seen modeled for them, perhaps even something reinforced by their parents . So it’s not fair to put all the blame on them. Suck it up or talk to the parents, but keep the judgment to yourself.

5. “You better come over here and give me a hug or a kiss!”

As a grandparent, it’s normal to want to connect with your grandchildren in this way, especially if you’re so excited to see them. However, many children may not feel comfortable giving hugs and kisses on request, and it’s important that the adults in their lives respect this.

“While this phrase is likely filled with love and a perfectly normal desire to foster closeness and connection with a child, it can also inadvertently take away a child’s right to autonomy and pressure them to abandon their body boundaries and to doubt,” Dorn said. . “This can send confusing messages about consent.”

To respect your grandchildren’s boundaries, you can instead phrase this as a question: “I’d like to give you a hug.” Is that good?”

But if they say “no,” accept their answer and move on.

“Make sure you don’t go further or use guilt with a comment like, ‘Please, just one?’ I’m your grandma/grandpa!’” Dorn said. “It’s helpful to instead keep the atmosphere light and say something like, ‘Okay! I love you so much and can’t wait to hear all about what you’ve been up to.’”

It’s never too late to become more aware of the way you approach interacting with your grandchildren.Andrea Dorn, psychotherapist and author

You can also suggest other ways to connect, such as waving hello or goodbye, or giving a fist bump or a high five.

“Children often feel like they don’t have a lot of self-determination, so it can be a powerful message that important adults in their lives will respect their body boundaries no matter what,” Dorn said. “This approach also reinforces the idea that physical affection is a personal choice, and promotes a healthy understanding of boundaries and consent in other areas of their lives.”

6. “Your parents are wrong about…”

Parenting styles and best practices change over time. You may have raised your children differently than your adult children now raise their own children.

“Grandparents, of course, grew up in a different era with different customs and norms, and it’s natural that we would want to comment on the differences,” Howes said. “There is nothing wrong with pointing out these differences, but it is very easy for such comments to come across as embarrassing. By shaming I mean declaring that one way was right and the other was wrong, and that there is something wrong with the grandchild or his parents.

In general, it’s best to keep these comments to yourself unless you see “significant blind spots or areas that could potentially be harmful to the child,” Howes said. “Even then, it is best to leave the concerns to the parents rather than the grandchild.”

It’s not a good idea to share these types of judgments or negative comments about your adult child’s parenting choices with your grandchildren, he said.

“If grandparents are having trouble raising their child, they should bring it up or keep it to themselves, but leave the grandchildren out of it,” Howes said.

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