Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Readers’ Comments on Skyping Situation


Several readers responded to my column, “Granddaughter Resists Skyping with Grandmother”. Some merely wanted to say they appreciated having the list of websites with digital activities that could make “staying connected” more fun and interesting. “Great timing! Our Skyping with our granddaughters was beginning to feel a bit forced and repetitious, so having some different and fun ways to shake things up a bit is most welcome.”

A grandmother writes: “I asked my daughter to sit down with my grandson and look at the websites you listed to see if he would like to use any of them with me [his grandmother]. He picked the one with the jokes, so that’s what we are doing. He thinks the jokes are hilarious, and I am happy he wants to do this with me.”

A young mom says: “I forwarded your column to my parents because I was sensing that my two boys were beginning to push back on Skyping with them. I was real casual about it and just said they might find the websites worth looking at. They thanked me and said they do want to try something different than the usual Skyping. So, thanks!” I would add that depending on the ages of the children involved, older kids might like to have a look at various websites and options, and voice their opinion on what to try.

Other readers had comments about Madison balking at Skyping with her grandmother. One particularly strong response from a grandmother: “I am of the Just Do It! school of thought in this situation. We’re talking about her grandmother wanting a few minutes of her time once a week. This is family, and sometimes we do things for and with family that we don’t really want to be doing. Get over it, Madison!”

The writer is implying that the focus should not be on Madison and meeting her needs, but rather, we should be making this more about the grandmother’s needs. In other words, the writer is suggesting using this situation as a teachable moment: Sometimes we have to put our own needs on the back burner – Madison not enjoying Skyping – and graciously allow someone else’s needs to take priority – Madison’s grandmother wanting to have regular long-distance interactions with her. A basic question is: whose needs should be accommodated here?

One reader has a very clear answer to this question. He writes,“Kids have rights. I think that it is up to the grandmother to understand that Madison has come to an end with the Skyping. I really think it is an imposition. Yes, she knows that Grandma loves her and that is why she wants the weekly Skype, but grandma should not assume this is a mutually enjoyed activity and try to come up with other ways to stay in touch. Perhaps the other grandparents are good models on this [by not looking for scheduled interactions, such as Skyping].”

I think this reader raises an important issue that is relevant to this discussion, that is, the concept of kids’ rights. On one level there is an attempt to come to universal agreement as to what comprises a child’s rights, as with the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, entered into force on September 1990 and signed by 196 countries.

  1. The right to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.
  2. The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.
  3. The right to a name and a nationality.
  4. The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.
  5. The right to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.
  6. The right to understanding and love by parents and society.
  7. The right to recreational activities and free education.
  8. The right to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.
  9. The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
  10. The right to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.

Although to many these ten basic, universal rights of a child may seem self-evident and beyond dispute, let the record show that it took decades to come up with them, and there are still countries that cannot agree with them. As soon as the concept of children’s rights comes up, cultural, social, and economic factors come into play and things can get complicated.

Suffice it to say that at the familial level, individual parenting philosophies and points of view about children’s rights inform how situations, such as this one between Madison and her grandmother, are resolved. An appropriate resolution in one household may be very different from resolutions that work in other households.

In this particular situation, we know the resolution. Madison’s mother provided an update: “It’s funny how things have a way of working out. After a couple weeks of doing every other week, my daughter missed Skyping with her Grandma and asked to go back to a weekly schedule. And just recently, she invited her Grandma to Skype with her mid-week too! I think it was important that my mom just let my daughter set the schedule and that my daughter didn’t perceive any pressure. That seemed to help.”    

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.

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Ask Dr. Gramma Karen:
 Helping Young Parents and Grandparents Deal with Thorny Issues

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