This past Monday, a group of moms and grandmoms met at the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ, for a Mommybites BERGEN live event facilitated by Dr. Karen Rancourt, Ph.D., Mommybites columnist for Ask Dr. Gramma Karen and the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Helping Young Parents and Grandparents Deal with Thorny Issues.
As the wait staff provided an endless supply of luscious treats and beverages, the group enthusiastically shared their experiences about what it was like for them to take on the new roles in their lives: becoming a young parent and becoming a grandparent.
To help understand the complexities of taking on these new roles, Dr. Rancourt used the metaphor of how grandparents, who are used to being in the driver’s seat, are immediately and unceremoniously relegated to the figurative back seat when a grandchild arrives – and no backseat driving allowed!
Meanwhile, the new young mom finds herself at the wheel of the “parenting vehicle,” trying to exude confidence that seems to ebb and flow. So, okay, maybe a little backseat driving now and then, but, as the group discussed, figuring out when and how to do this is challenging for all parties.
In addition, the group talked about the various sources of conflict between young parents and grandparents, including: boundaries, communication, expectations, and disappointments. The group also discussed five basic styles used to resolve conflicts (competitive/combative, accommodating, avoidance, compromising, and collaboration), and how each has its advantages and disadvantages.
In closing, Dr. Rancourt suggested that young parents and grandparents alike need to be careful about starting a sentence with “You should . . .” as the word should has the potential to trigger conflicts. She ended by saying she has 4 words grandparents need to say over and over to young parents: “How can I help?” She has 8 words that young parents need to use more often: “I need some help. Can you help me?” Use of those 4 and 8 words can do so much to decrease strife and conflicts between young parents and grandparents.
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