Grandparents Worry About Grandchildren, Too
Plus: tips for coping with stress and worry
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Parents lose sleep for myriad reasons. During those first few weeks (or months) of a newborn’s life, moms and dads feel sleep-deprived because of 2 a.m. feedings. But once your bundle of joy sleeps a solid seven or eight continuous hours, new worries may emerge that can keep you awake. Is your child developing OK? Is he or she making friends at school? And the worrying doesn’t go away — parents worry just as much about grown children.
But what about grandparents?
Joyce Ann Brent of Raleigh says she worries equally about her 6-year-old grandson and her two grown daughters, Marie Slater of Mars Hill and Jennifer Lynn Brent of Dunn.
“Yes, we definitely worry about our grandson, Zane, as much as we worried about our girls when they were little — and now as they are as adults,” Brent says.
She worries primarily for their safety because of their professions.
“When our girls were little we never thought about school or workplace shootings, and really never thought much about bullying situations,” Brent says. “We lived in a very small town in Ohio and that was never much of an issue. However, now as adults — Jennifer is a first-grade teacher and Jeanine is a clinical psychologist working in a male penitentiary — our concerns are definitely for their safety in their work environments.”
Headlines Don’t Help
Brent also worries about Zane when he’s at school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students are concerned, too. In the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, published in June 2018, 6 percent of students nationwide did not go to school at least one day during the previous month because they felt it was unsafe.
“Our biggest worry with Zane is his safety during school hours,” Brent says. “Even taking him to the movies makes me very aware of exits and thoughts on keeping him safe.”
It can be difficult for parents and grandparents to stay positive, especially given the near-constant headlines of school shootings and violence. “I try not to dwell on negative thoughts, but when another shooting happens, it immediately comes to the surface,” Brent says.
Her best advice for other grandparents is to stay optimistic and not worry so much about the “what ifs.”
“It’s difficult to tell someone else how to manage their worries and concerns since we all handle stress in our own way, but I would try to impress a positive attitude,” she says. “Keep yourself as busy and productive as possible, and have someone you can share your concerns and fears with,” she advises.
Grandparents Are More Involved
One reason grandparents have more concerns is because they are helping with child care for working parents — oftentimes a financial necessity — or because grandparents are simply eager to be more involved. These changing roles create challenges, writes clinical psychologist Laura Smith in a Psych Central blog post at psychcentral.com titled, “Grandparent Anxiety.”
“Grandparents want to help, and many times they must and should. At the same time, grandparents often harbor worries about how much help is too much,” Smith says.
Communicating clearly with your grandchild’s parents about appropriate boundaries and discipline is crucial to reducing conflict and anxiety.
Tips for Coping With Stress and Worry
Despite parents’ and grandparents’ best efforts to stay positive, their deep love for their children and grandchildren is what creates everyday fears and concerns. The CDC offers the following tips to cope:
• Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can create additional problems.
• Find support from family, friends, a pastor or a counselor.
• Stay connected socially, and plan fun activities with family and friends.
• Take care of yourself by eating right, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.
• Stay active by volunteering or helping a friend or neighbor. Staying involved and busy can help keep your mind off your fears.
Myra Wright is a freelance writer who worries frequently about her three kids, ages 18, 15 and 10. Learn more about her at myrawright.wordpress.com.