Dear Grandparenting: What do you do when your grandchild comes home from school crying, “Nobody likes me,” with big tears rolling down her cheeks? My Lord, but Mary was upset like I’d never seen her before, sobbing so hard that I had trouble understanding her words. After I calmed her down, Mary started with “so-and-so hates me, and so-and-so never invites me to her house, and so-and-so said my big ears stick out,” etc.
Mary carried on like this for way too long, like the whole world was against her and her life was already ruined at the age of 8. But I didn’t blow her off. I listened and nodded until she got it all out of her. That’s what grandmothers do. But listening alone isn’t going to change anything. Do you have any advice about getting my granddaughter over bumps like this? Nash Hubbard, New York, New York
Dear Nash: Whose heart doesn’t go out to the friendless child? Even worse, adults feel so powerless to fix the problem. You can’t go picking friends for your grandchildren. That’s their job.
Give it some time before getting too worried. Adolescent relationships can turn on a dime overnight. And there are worse things than no friends at the moment — like keeping company the wrong kind of friends.
Nor would we get too concerned about a child who had just one friend. At least they have a way to practice friendship and a frame of reference. But grandchildren who exist in a state of prolonged friendlessness are more problematic.
Certain learning and attention disorders that impact social skills and behaviors can make it difficult to form friendships. Children with poor communication skills, impulsiveness and hyperactivity are at risk, as are those who have trouble sharing, taking turns and controlling their emotions.
Social anxiety inhibits friendships but it can be dealt with. Arrive early at parties and gatherings, since anxious children do better that way as opposed to working themselves into a group later. Urging your grandchild to pursue athletics or an activity where they meet others could solve a lot of problems.
Not everyone will like your grandchild, but trying to build a friendship with someone who’s just not interested is a recipe for misery. Sometimes they fixate on making friends with the most popular kids, ignoring peers they have more in common with. Like the rest of us, grandchildren make friends by doing things together. It’s really that simple.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Chic Williams from Knoxville, Tennessee, “still keeps working on the legacy” he will leave his grandchildren.
“Grandkids probably won’t remember you for material things you provided, but instead for the feeling that you loved and cherished each and every one, in their own way.”
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.