Grown Kids, Grandkids, and Long Hot Summers

For working parents, summer can be a childcare nightmare; there are always a few days or weeks when your grown kids need you to fill in when their other arrangements fall out. It’s a chance to enjoy the grands on your own – all the fun and hardly any of the responsibility. But when you see it as an opportunity to “remedy” parenting practices you disapprove of, you’re not helping your kids bring up their kids – you’re taking over their  job

Q. My daughter is a very casual parent who allows her 9 year old daughter to do whatever she wants, eat mostly junk food, watch a lot of TV, and go to bed when she feels like it, which is often close to midnight. When she’s at our house, none of those things is allowed.  Because I’m much less permissive, she doesn’t want to come here, and it takes me all morning to jolly her out of it unless I give in to her demands.
A.Stop trying. She’s in charge of her own feelings; you can’t change them, just the way you react to them. She may have learned to manipulate her mother with tantrums, tears or defiance but it’s important to demonstrate that that won’t work with you by being cheerful, matter of fact, clear about your expectations , and repeating some version of “grandma’s house, grandma’s rules” without indicating that there’s anything wrong with her mother’s way of doing things.
Q.My grandchildren spend a month with us every summer. I loved it when they were little, but now that they’re older I don’t know what to do with them. The 13 year old spends every minute on her phone and the 15 year old on his video games. They’re too old for play dates and I don’t know anyone their age either. Help!
A.If you’re a regular volunteer, bring them along – they’re old enough to help out at a food bank, bake sale, senior center, and it’s a good way to model your values for them. Teach them something you know how to do and they don’t (driving, knitting, fishing, pottery, crafts, card games), or let them teach you (technology is a good place to start). Familiarize yourself with local events and resources – teen centers, swim or sports clubs, skating rinks and skateboard parks. Get out a map and plan day or overnight trips to places and attractions they haven’t visited before. Binge watch a favorite TV show with them. Let them sleep late, eat when they’re hungry, and ask your friends who have grandkids where theirs hang out.
Q.My daughter OD’d and the first I knew of it was when CPS called to tell me to come pick up my granddaughter. I did, and she stayed with me for several months until my daughter completed a rehab program and took her back. Now I have her twice a week and when she’s here she’s sad and depressed,  complains that she misses her Mom, and ignores me when I try to get her back to the routines and rules we established when she lived here. What can I do?
A. Understand that she’s afraid she’ll be abandoned by her mom again and empathize with her sadness…allow her to feel bad and even cry, suggest she call her mother to say gooodnight or reassure herself that she’s okay and is coming back. Make sure she knows she always has a room in your house, and put a sign on the door with her name on it. Focus on the rules and routines that are important for her safety and your peace of mind and ease up on the others – if she doesn’t brush her teeth or take a bath a couple of times a week it won’t kill her. And if you see any indication that she’s being ignored, neglected or that her mother is using drugs again, contact CPS.