Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Help! Help! Our Children Are Drowning In Technology

In our wonderful technological world of internet, Android phones, iPads and instant gratification, we've lost a great deal of our humanity. People text and e-mail rather than talk to one another directly. E-mails and texts don’t contain tone of voice or feeling. We lose the power to communicate. We become remote, once removed from the personal. We use tweets and abbreviated letters instead of real words. We've all seen people text at concerts, movies, theatre. We no longer concentrate on interpersonal relationships. People don't matter. We don't even talk to one another or look each other in the eye. Conversation will become a lost art. Does anyone really care that you were eating a hamburger at midnight in Times Square? How do we really feel about each other in REAL TIME?

We're living in a world of virtual reality. It separates parents from children and us from each other. Talk TO me, not AT me. We definitely do things faster but not better. The internet, with its Facebook and blogs, is supposed to unite us but it really isolates us. We are seeing a new generation who cannot spell, don't know grammar and have limited vocabularies. Listening skills are going by the wayside and today's technology fails to encourage their listening skills. What happened to the days when parents sat and read to their children? Even on “play dates,” kids go into separate rooms and talk to each other on the computer.

Facebook, which began as a dating service for college kids, now connects us with people who we haven't seen in years and really don’t care about us (or us about them). Otherwise we would have remained in touch! Letter writing is a thing of the past and many jobs are now obsolete. Most magazines, newspapers and books you can actually hold in your hands are disappearing. All this is supposed to be "green" and wonderful but I very much doubt it. We can't go backward but we also can't let technology destroy our souls. The internet promises, "Oh the places we’ll go and the people we’ll see” (to quote Dr. Seuss). Of course they won’t be real. No pictures can replace visiting a new country; no picture of a new grandchild can replace a hug.

One of the funniest things that ever happened to us took place a few days ago. A friend of ours just bought a brand new smartphone. He showed us all its tricks and then said, “Look at this!” He typed in the name of our restaurant (on 72nd St and Third Ave) and sure enough, there it was on the screen of his phone. “Isn't this the greatest thing you've ever seen?” he gloated, “This is right where we are.” The only problem was we already knew where we were. “Parlez moi d’amor,” i.e. speak to me of love but please don't tweet it, text it or e-mail it, just say it.

:) Sue

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow"

Somewhere between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4, children begin to assert themselves. When a child says "NO" to you it might be frustrating, but in reality it is a positive sign of growth. Young children do not know where they begin and you end. When they say "NO" it is the first sign that they are trying to become their own person. Parents too, do not often know the proper boundaries between themselves and their child. Many of us have heard the phrase, "You are not the boss of me." Here are a few examples of ways that children express the need to separate and become their own person:

My grandson who just turned three has become very independent quickly. When he goes to the bathroom he wants to close the door for privacy. He wants to make his own sandwich, spread cream cheese on his bread and pour his own juice.

Another grandmother we know has a grandson who spends weekends with her in the country. Recently she called his name and he didn't respond. She looked all over the house but couldn't find him. She was very frightened and decided to look outside and found him shooting hoops in the back yard. When grandma said, "You know you are never to leave the house without telling me. I was very worried, I didn't know where you were." The child casually replied, "Well, now you know." He wasn't being fresh, he was simply asserting his independence and growing up. This particular grandmother was able to laugh about it but let him know that he must always tell her where he is going.

We want to keep children close, but they need to move on and become independent. Case in point, many mothers we know cannot let go. They are opening cereal boxes and pouring the milk for their teenagers who are perfectly capable of doing this for themselves. Parents need to establish limits at every age and learn how to say no when it is appropriate. We have an epidemic in this country of people who remain dependent well into their thirties, financially and emotionally. Our job as parents is to help our children grow up and take responsibility for their own lives.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Family Dynamics Can Be Dynamite

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy suggests "all happy families are alike." Unfortunately this is not true - no two families are alike. Family dynamics take years to develop. Wherever we go, we take our family baggage with us. It's always packed and ready to go! When families merge, the experiences that each person brings to the relationship are different but loaded. Who we are in the present is based on our experiences as children. Our frame of reference is always familial; everyone's expecations are different. What do we do when we see things through other lenses? How can we reconcile when viewpoints differ? Certain respones trigger negativity and anger - specifically "you're wrong," "no," "why did you do that?" are just a few.

For some, hurt feelings build up and come out as anger. Some people say nothing but feel resentful and hurt. Less is always more; what you don't say speaks volumes. "I" messages allow us to express our own feelings without placing blame on another. It helps to take a step back and think about how you want to approach the situation. A helpful excercise is to write down your angry thoughts on paper. This gives you personal relief and a chance to reevaluate the situation. Negative thoughts can bring you down. Always try to keep an open mind and believe that things can get better and have a positive outcome - because they can!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Revisited

Most everyone realizes that Mother’s Day is a holiday that was started by some smart merchandisers, as was Father’s Day. Even though we know that, it still feels good to be acknowledged. Mothers work hard raising their kids. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be celebrated. For people who have lost their mothers, or for parents who have lost a child, it can be a painful reminder. It can be a little bit like New Year’s Eve – if you don’t have a date, you don’t know what to do with yourself. Parents and children all have different styles, which can sometimes lead to miscommunication. Here’s a recent example:

Sitting around a card table a week before Mother’s Day, one of the players said, “What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” One mother proudly said that her children were coming in and taking her to their home in the country for the weekend, where they were all going to have a glorious time. Another said she had been invited to a large Mother’s Day brunch. A third mother announced that her children were taking her to a hit Broadway show. The fourth person was silent with a stony look on her face. “And what have you planned?” they all chirped gaily. “Nothing,” was the reply.

The day before Mother’s Day, she received a call. “Hey mom, what are you doing tomorrow?” “Nothing,” replied the mother, who had made alternate plans just in case. “But it’s Mother’s Day!” the child said. “Really?” said the mother, “I never thought you’d ask.” The child replied that she’d been extremely busy and the mother testily answered “So have I.” The family met the following day at a coffee shop and the mother was not smiling sweetly. The daughter then produced flowers and a wonderful gift that she had made and said, “Mom, we’ve spent the last ten Mother’s Days together. I don’t want you to ever think about it again, just assume we’ll be together.” And that was that. The stylistic difference in this particular family is that the mother plans way ahead, while the daughter seems to be a spur-of-the-moment kind of person.

It gets complicated when our grown children marry and there are two mothers to consider. Some solve this by each child going with their own parent. Some split the day, seeing one mother for lunch and one for dinner. A happier solution is to blend the two families and spend the day together. No matter how it’s worked out, mothers like to be acknowledged. Happy (belated) Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Creating A Life of Your Own

Becoming a grandparent can be one of the biggest thrills of a lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a negative aspect as well. Many of us have a fear of uselessness, growing older and 
"killing time." This concept seems sad to us. Time is too valuable.
People in their 60's and early 70's are often worried about giving up a job and filling their days. Many people define themselves by their careers. What then? Some grandparents become completely involved with their grandchildren, who become the focus of their lives.
Others find solace in playing bridge, canasta or Mah Jong. Some people travel and find hobbies that interest them. 
We cannot depend on our children to fill our lives. That is our job.

Many of us feel that we should be doing more. We should not let age define who we are. Some people think "old" at age 30.  Old is in your mind. Keeping young is having a positive attitude and always looking for new challenges and opportunities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Letting Your Adult Child Grow Up

When does an adult child become an adult in a parent’s eyes? For some us NEVER! That is our own blind spot. Your child’s independence begins with its first step; its first use of language, with its first, but definite, “No!” Its first real leaving us, sometimes reluctantly, is at the nursery school door. From there it is on to grade school, not hesitantly this time. When they reach middle and high school, most children are raring to go! They still need us, but we are no longer the center of their lives, while they are still our center. Now it is all about their peers, their marvelous “new to us” iPads, iPhones, computer, computer games – that is their reality. It is natural, it is fair, yet it does not seem so to us. It is hard to let go. We hold in our minds the image of the sobbing three year old was has skinned its knee, the loving embrace of a five year old asking, “What do you think?”, or the ten year old inquiring, “Do you like it? I made it especially for you.”

Suddenly it is just you and your spouse. “Alone at last” is not always your response. You haven’t had to deal with each other for quite a while. You always had that child between you. You planned for it and hoped for it each step of the way; but a grownup? Now reality sets in and often finds you unprepared.

The biggest change comes with high school graduation. This is not going quite the way you thought it would. Perhaps you had in mind a lovely quiet dinner with extended family after the ceremony. No, the child is going to a huge party, usually in Brooklyn, at night, no parents allowed! Oh well. Next your child is going off to college, nowhere near you and is never really coming home as a permanent resident, if you are lucky in these hard economic times.

Long before the word “Parenting” became part of the English language, the best “parting” advice I know was to be found in a book called “Claudia” by Rose Franken, published in the early 1940s. Speaking of the child-parent bond Franken wrote “hold close with open hands.” I have lived by that motto. Trying to hold tightly to your child, to protect it constantly, even with the best of intentions, will not be appreciated. How can anyone grow up without knowing disappointment and pain? It cannot be done! We must realize that our children can and will cope with hardship. Hopefully, we taught them how.

Our children do not belong to us. They never did. Everything we think we own is an illusion. Everything and everyone we love is on loan. We can enjoy many things, especially our children. Our greatest gift to them is to let them go, let them grow up, although that can mean our growing apart from them. Separation is a lifelong task and not always easy or pleasant. From birth to death we separate from those we love. Our children must find their own identities, just as we fought to find ours from our own mothers and fathers. At times we grow closer to each other, at other times more distant. Our children grown up and we grow with them. Someone once said to me, “The most important things you can give your child are roots and wings and roots are not the hardest.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Your Child Asks for Help

When you adult child asks for your advice, what should you do? When they specifically ask for your help, they really want it. Letting them know that you understand is key. Common sense, listening, and avoiding hysterical outbursts are essential. Calm is in order.

Hard as it is to do, try to separate your pain from your child's. When those you love are in pain, it is difficult not to worry. As much as we want to help, there are times when they must resolve it on their own. It is really tough to keep the right balance and stay sane and helpful. If you say something unhelpful, you will know it fast enough since you will be cut off. If you are on the phone they might say, "okay mom, gotta go now."

It is often true that you don't hear from your adult child when things are going well, but you can be sure the phone will ring when trouble arises. We strive to be a safe harbor for our children when they need our help and support. If our children are more concerned about our reaction to their problem they will not come to us. The goal as parents should be to "hold them close with open hands."

Monday, March 5, 2012

We Are the Product of Our Own Upbringing

At our last grandparents meeting, the topic was “Letting Go of Our Adult Children.” This led us to a spirited discussion of our own parents and how they parented us. We felt that it was very much a part of the topic, because not only do we have to let our children grow up in their own way, we also have to let go of our own parents to become the realized people that we are.

Our grandparents’ generation was a product of the Depression. Their goal was to see that their children “had it better” – food, clothing, and job security. After World War II, parents wanted their children to have a better life than they had, and thought they could achieve this through higher education and acquiring material things. This generation wants their children to be safe and accomplished; they move at a much faster pace due to new technologies. The stress level is much higher today due to economic pressures and social and world insecurities.

Our generation had to let go of what we sometimes thought of as petty tyranny and parental control of our every action. Some of us were never really able to do that. We have a friend in her eighties who constantly blames her mother for her own faults. Amazing but true. What do we need to become fully formed adults and to be our best selves? We need to let go. We need to have the ability to see ourselves realistically and not be a pastiche of what others want us to be; not our parents’ vision nor our own childrens’ vision. We just need to be us!

Monday, February 20, 2012

What You Don't Say Speaks Volumes

Thinking back to our own childhoods, both of us remember something called “the look.” “The Look” was usually on your mother’s face and it conveyed a message of complete dissatisfaction with what you were wearing, doing, or where you were going.

As educated grandparents and parents, we think that our expressions are neutral. In reality, our feelings are visible and readily obvious to our children and grandchildren. We are often unaware that a raised eyebrow, a shrug of a shoulder, a deep sigh, or looking the other way can show displeasure.

Conversely, our children often respond non-verbally as well. Their reactions to us might include rolling their eyes, shuffling their feet, or reading a text message, which indicates their impatience and annoyance. These gestures replace unkind words or, often, too many words. Could this be a good communication strategy?

Even when we try to “zip it,” our body language often shows our true feelings, to which we are entitled. Body language can be used to communicate positive unspoken feelings as well as the negative ones. A huge smile, a hug, a slight nod or a touch or squeeze of a hand, speak volumes.

Tell us what you think!

Ann and Sue

Monday, February 13, 2012

Parenting is Never Easy...Being a Single Parent Is That Much Harder

When your children were younger, many of you participated in a group for single parents at Central Synagogue with Ann Obsatz. Now that your children are older, many of their needs have changed, as have yours.

My partner Sue Bayer and I are forming a group specifically to address the needs of parenting without a partner. Sharing experiences and concerns, we will seek alternatives to stressful daily challenges and be there to support each other.

Please join us for the first discussion, by invitation only:
"As Single Parents Talk"

Date: Monday, March 12, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Place: Home of Sue Bayer
360 East 65th St.
Apt. 11F

We hope you will join us for fun, food, wine and good conversation!

Please RSVP to Ann Obsatz at 212-861-6522
or e-mail Ann at annobsatz@aol.com

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Educated Grandparent Is Also The Educated Parent

After running our first successful group for grandparents, we realized that many of the issues that arose were not issues between the grandparent and the grandchild, but rather between the grandparents and their grown children. This is not to suggest that blame rests on one or the other but brings up problems that need to be addressed even if there is no grandchild involved.

Dealing with an adult child is not always easy. Patterns that were established early on still resonate. It is hard to break old parent-child relationships.
In today's society with economic pressures, many adult children return home and revert back to early patterns as do their parents. Family relationships are never easy. 

Both of us are parents of adult children and we realize the difficulty of loving too little or too much. As early childhood specialists we have led many groups for parents of young children. Now we realize how much skill it takes to communicate effectively with adult children.

Therefore we are now offering a workshop series addressing many situations which may arise. 

Some of the topics we will talk about are:

Your "Baby" as a Competent Adult - Fostering Independence

Not Playing the Blame Game 

Keeping the Channels of Communication Open - It's Never too Late!

The Difference in Parenting Daughters and Sons 

Sibling Rivalry - It Never Ends

Living Your Own Life and Letting Them Live Theirs

We welcome your ideas, comments and input.
Please keep checking our blog and our new Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/educatedgrandparent for updates and workshops.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Myth of Perfection

Psychologist Diana Siskind, in her book Working with Parents, suggests the image of the ideal parent who is loving, wise, kind, patient and reasonable (the one we wanted for ourselves and the one we aspired to become when we had children of our own) is an image only. This applies to grandparents as well.

We would love to be that "perfect person". Is that realistic? We may have perfect intentions but life gets in the way of our plans. Being perfect suggests that we are all powerful and gives us the illusion that we can control the events and people around us.

Emotions, ours and others, get in the way of our relationships and we often find ourselves responding with anger, threats, criticism or playing the blame game. Some people respond by internalizing the anger and might withdraw or beg to be listened to.

Being "perfect" puts a lot of pressure on everyone. When we pressure a child to be "perfect" that child often feels they are failing us because they are unable to live up to our demands. Hearing our anger, children may think it is their fault. In actuality, it probably has nothing to do with them, you just may be having a bad day. Children may also feel responsible for your happiness. That is a tremendous burden at any age.

We are human and we don't have all the answers. It is alright to say,
"That's a good question...I don't have the answer right now, but let me think about it."

We often ask children too many questions. This can add to feelings of insecurity when children don't know how to respond, since children feel safe and secure knowing that the adult is in control.

If we can get rid of the myth of "perfection," what a relief it will be for everyone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Happiness Trap

When you get right down to it, parents and grandparents have the same goal for their children. They just want them to be happy all the time.

What you think might make a child happy is not necessarily what the child needs or wants. Our need is to continue to take care of them but their need is to become independent and self sufficient.

Realistically, no one is happy all the time. Life is made up of a range of emotions but as parents and grandparents we get caught up in the "Happiness Trap."

When a child is very young we are needed, and that tends to make us happy. But as a child matures, that need for our constant loving presence diminishes.

Here is an example. A 19 year old comes home from college for the holidays. As is typical, he stays out late with friends, and sleep past noon. Mom waits for his door to open and immediately runs to the kitchen to brew fresh coffee and make him a big breakfast, even though the refrigerator is full, and he is capable of making his own breakfast. He waits for his mother to do it, because that has always been the pattern. When asked why she still does this, the mom responds, "it's one of the few things I can still do that makes him happy."

Even for our college aged grandchildren, we fret if that child isn't 100 percent happy. The most important gift we can give is letting them know that we are confident in their ability to make their own decisions and feel confident, capable and in charge of their own futures.

But.... We still hope they will be "happy."