My grandson is being harmed emotionally by his parents’ battles. He is a straight-A student, a perfect little boy and very nervous. My daughter’s fear and anger drives her life. She was anorexic as a teenager and still struggles with perfectionism and control. She is frequently terrified that my grandson’s father (they were never married) will take him away. My grandson spent three days a week with his dad until his dad moved to Southern California. Now, they visit four times a year. During the holidays, my grandson spent time with his father’s family and they treated him like a little king. His father said he would return to court so my grandson could live with him permanently. My daughter is very upset. When I try to talk to her, she shuts me out of their life. I know that we all create situations in order to grow, but my heart breaks seeing how this affects my grandson. What can I do?
Be open to surrendering your expectations of how your grandson’s life should be. And be grateful for your sadness. Our Humpty Dumpty hearts are endlessly broken. Often the repair leaves fissures, and those cracks are how the light gets in. So accept that you cannot protect him (or yourself) from life experiences. Most of what touches him, in his youth and beyond, will be out of your control. You should, however, model coping tools for crisis and teach him those tools. Consider this: Years ago, I baby-sat a 2-year-old cousin. She was racing around the house and ran right into the sliding glass door. Propelled backward by the impact, she plopped down on her behind then looked around at the adults. She started to cry as she looked into the face of her panicked mother and father. Then she looked at me. I simply looked back at her calmly, completely open to her response. She immediately stood up and pointed at the door, smiling. I opened it, she tucked her hand inside mine and we went outside. Comprende? Your response to your grandson’s family situation either adds to the drama or points to a path out of the chaos. Teach him to look beyond his fear to another possibility. When he is immersed in anxiety, explain that he can learn to track backward, mentally, to the thought that birthed the fear. Help him question his fearful thoughts by asking himself if they are true and what he gains by believing in something that is either not true or is so far in the future that its outcome is unknown. Sign him up for a children’s yoga class, and teach him other ways of self-soothing, like pressure-point massage. If he doesn’t seem that interested, don’t fret. Just model healthy behavior, and teach him how to live it. Eventually, the seeds you plant will root.
I have a friend who points out the negative in everything and everybody. It leaves me feeling drained. Any ideas on how to handle her?
When your girl-buddy gets her rant on, ask her to name three good things about the person or situation she is complaining about. If she acts insulted by your request to accentuate the positive, tell her that you’re just trying to keep life in balance. Here’s how it should work: She whines about her job, then with your encouragement, admits that it provides a paycheck that supports her lifestyle, allows her to contribute to society and gives her an opportunity to grow and learn. By the way, you might benefit from naming three good things about a friend who grumbles and leaves you feeling drained. Yeah, you know I had to suggest that!