Dear Grandparenting: The wife and I retired to Florida eight years ago. That was before we had grandchildren, but grandchildren were always part of the plan. We did it up big. We turned the garage into a place for grandkids, putting in air conditioning, two bunk beds, refrigerator and a full bathroom. We can bike to the beach.
Then hurricanes Harvey and Irma came along. Now the wife is saying she might want to sell if the price was right and move out. We made out OK with Irma, all things considered. Our neighbors will tell you the same thing. But talk to people who always lived here, and they’ll tell you Irma was a different kind of beast. And if you believe in global warming like I do, it can only get worse.
I’m hearing our grandkids honestly believed the wife and I were doomed to die. They also saw pictures of alligators, snakes and fire ants floating around in the flooding. It’s not a pretty picture, I admit. Think we have any chance of ever getting the grandkids to come down here again? The wife says no way. Jackson King, Delray Beach, Florida
Dear Jackson: We wouldn’t count on it anytime soon, but won’t say never again. First you have to allow for the many months required to rebuild Florida’s battered infrastructure. More to the point, monstrous storms like these will put the fear into lionhearted tough guys, for good reason. Imagine the impact on a small, defenseless child.
Youngsters are more resilient than often given credit for. As with other natural disasters, they take their cues from what adults do and say. To minimize psychological trauma on grandchildren, create an open, supportive environment where they feel free to ask questions, when they’re ready. Instead of dismissing their thoughts, feelings and reactions, acknowledge their reaction. Be reassuring; i.e., adults are always ready to help, while avoiding unrealistic promises. Who can expect grandchildren to trust them otherwise?
Grandchildren displaced by Irma and Harvey will have a harder road ahead. Remember 2005’s Katrina that ravaged the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas, devastating New Orleans along the way? The stressors were “so severe they overwhelmed the coping skills of most kids,” said Kate McLaughlin, director of the University of Washington’s Stress and Development Lab that studied Katrina’s mental health impacts.
Twelve years later, young survivors in their 20s say the mental strain of wreck and ruin is like escaping the very floodwaters — desperately seeking something safe and solid to hold onto, a place or person. But after decades of studying the effects of various traumas, researchers have found no way to predict who will suffer, survive or be stronger for it.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Rebecca Garcia, of Denver, Colorado, is of the opinion that “grandchildren start off thinking their grandparents will live forever.
“When they are old enough to understand, I tell them I can’t promise that I will be here for the rest of their life. But I promise my grandchildren I will love them for the rest of my life.”
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.