Dear Grandparenting: I’m not the least bit happy about how this COVID pandemic has changed my life, but my grandchildren have it much worse. They were just getting started.
So it came as no surprise when a nurse friend mentioned the surge of young people that’s been coming to hospital emergency rooms for mental health problems.
Mine hopefully aren’t that bad off yet, but there’s so much stress going around. All I hear from grandchildren is how life is unfair. They feel like they’re missing out on everything, and I don’t know how to help. Brandy Sweeney, Tacoma, Washington
Dear Brandy: Your sentiments are shared by grandparents and families the world over. What indeed will become of this generation of grandchildren? How can they navigate a world rife with fear and uncertainty? Instead of addressing specific concerns, we’ve collected several recommendations to improve children’s general mental health, especially in hard times like these.
Start reassuring children early on that what they think and feel is normal, which doesn’t mean condoning or agreeing with all their thoughts and actions. It means you hear and understand. Validations help kids label their own feelings and enhances their emotional intelligence.
Help provide hope. Research show teens can learn social skills to combat stress and insecurity and develop resilience. One technique involved a reading and writing exercise designed to instill a simple message and manage tension: People can change. Students who finished the exercise were more relaxed and confident and academically successful.
Kids ought not worry about how many friends they have. Teach them that quality tops quantity. Instead of winning the popularity contest or becoming a social media queen, a few trustworthy friends is just fine. Research shows peer acceptance and at least one close friend predicts good school performance and mental wellbeing.
Help children normalize bad experiences. People change; friends can hurt or disappoint. Share your story, and how you got over it.
Focus on positives. Children have a knack for making mountains out of mole hills. Empathize and pivot, refocusing on recent triumphs and pleasures. And don’t forget to hug your grandkids. They’ll feel cared for and more secure for it.
Grand remark of the week
Brenda Brown from Sidney, Ohio was dumbstruck when granddaughter Darcy, age 7, announced she “learned how to make babies” in school.
“How does that work?” asked Brenda.
“Easy,” replied Darcy. “First you drop the ‘y’ in baby. Then add ‘ies’ and it spells babies.”
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.