When Baby Hates Grandma

When Baby hates Grandma, you’ve got a problem. That problem is a little bit about you. After all, you created, produced, and directed this child who doesn’t like her own Grandma. You raised her this way (thus far).

But it’s also a bit about gut instincts.

Gut instincts. It’s something people say about children when they seem to know before everyone else that mom’s new boyfriend, for instance, is just deep down no good. Kids just know, they say (they say it about animals, too). And we nod our heads and agree.

Until Baby freaks out on meeting Grandma for the first time.

When Baby hates Grandma, you so don’t want to think it has anything to do with gut instincts.

Grandma: the nicest woman you’ll ever meet. Feeds the hungry and clothes the poor. Takes in stray animals. Volunteers at the local hospital bringing comfort to kids with cancer.

But Baby doesn’t actually know any of this and the minute Grandma comes over for a hug, Baby begins howling in fear. Actual fear.

When Baby hates Grandma it’s a real downer. Yikes!

Meantime you know that Grandma is a good person. So how are you to understand this behavior from your child? Are you supposed to decide there’s something about Grandma that no one knows (except, obviously, Baby)? Something dark and nefarious hidden in Grandma’s emotional closet, perhaps?

Or perhaps you’re supposed to learn from this episode that babies don’t really have gut instincts about people after all. That there’s something else going on. Something else that is making Baby bawl her head off when Grandma comes over for a hug.

Maybe when Baby hates Grandma it’s not even about Grandma at all.

It’s something you’re thinking about because it’s the holiday season and Grandma is going to be coming for a visit. You just know that she’ll try to hug Baby and Baby will freak and Grandma’s feelings will be hurt. Again.

What to do?

Grandma As Powerhouse

Let’s step back for a moment and reexamine Grandma. Grandma’s not just this really nice person who cares, but a doer. A real powerhouse. She gets things done after other people label the tasks impossible. She exudes strength and confidence.

This is what Baby is reacting to: Grandma’s larger than life presence. Grandma’s personality is so big that when she walks into the room, everyone else sort of pales in comparison, just fades to background, like flowered wallpaper no one ever notices. Baby’s gut instincts tell her Grandma is a remarkable person, a star.

Baby has never met anyone quite like Grandma. She needs time to process the information she’s getting about Grandma. She needs time to get comfortable with this huge persona.

Because everything new or different can be scary when you don’t quite know what it means.

In other words, Baby’s fear (because by now, you know it’s not hate, but fear) of Grandma is not really about gut instinct at all. It’s not even about Grandma (or about hate). It’s about Baby being sensitive to people with big personalities and needing some time to get used to a new person. When Baby hates Grandma it’s not about hate or Grandma but about fear of the unknown.

The proper way to handle Baby’s freak-out? Reassure Grandma it’s not about her, but about Baby and her fear of the new and different. Explain to Grandma that Baby just needs a bit of time to warm up. And then ask Grandma to ignore Baby. For now.

This will give Baby the room to observe Grandma from a safe distance, to watch how Grandma interacts with others. This way, Baby is back in charge: she gets to decide whether or not she likes this person; whether she feels secure and safe enough to risk an introduction. Chances are, Baby’s natural curiosity will win out and she’ll try to make eye contact with Grandma or do something else to get her attention.

When Baby Hates Grandma: Don’t Push It

But if it doesn’t happen on this first visit, don’t push it.

It simply won’t work.

Yes. It will likely hurt Grandma’s feelings that baby screams in fear when she approaches, and it’s aggravating as all heck, especially when you’ve done so much to make the day perfect and Grandma’s come from miles away. Not to mention, people have this crazy idea that babies have gut instincts about people. They think that babies know.

When Baby Hates Grandma: Downer, Big Time

Grandma may even begin to doubt herself, and wonder if there’s something wrong with her. When Baby hates Grandma, it’s a bad feeling for Grandma and for you. Furthermore, this ball is totally in Baby’s ballpark. You can only do so much to ease things.

Is there anything you can do in advance of Grandma’s visit to make Baby more receptive? We’re glad you asked. Of course there is:

  1. Show Baby photos of Grandma. Point and say, “This is Grandma!” in a happy, loving voice. This conveys to your child that Grandma is someone you like, that she is someone safe.  You might also ask, “Who’s this?” pointing to Grandma, and then say, “Grandma!” Baby is getting used to the idea of Grandma as  someone safe and someone to love.
  2. Speak about Grandma’s visit ahead of time. Even if your baby is too young to understand very much, talk about Grandma’s
  3. upcoming visit in a way that shows your excitement and approval. “Do you know who’s coming to visit? Grandma!”
  4. Warn Grandma beforehand. If your baby is slow to warm up to strangers in general, you’ll want to make sure Grandma knows this, so her feelings won’t be hurt. Let her know that if it happens, if Baby freaks at her approach, it won’t be about her, but about Baby’s cautious nature.
  5. Talk strategy with Grandma. Ignoring a fearful child helps that child regain her confidence until the time she is bound to reach out to Grandma on her own. Tell Grandma that ignoring Baby is the best way to make her come around.
  6. Make it a stress-free event. You may not realize it, but going all out and making your holiday celebration labor intensive could put a crimp in that first meeting between Baby and Grandma. If you’re stressed out by holiday planning and preparation, your baby will feel it. She won’t know why you’re tense and tired, but when the big day comes she’ll make the connection. She’ll know that it’s this visit that has you a nervous wreck and she’ll respond by feeling uncomfortable. Keep it simple, Stupid, is a good mantra to keep in mind. Buying bakery goods instead of doing all the baking work yourself, may just make Baby more receptive to meeting her relatives, just because she feels your calm presence—as opposed to that of the nervous wreck who is worried the soufflé will fall—beside her.

Finding a Caregiver or Daycare for Your Child

Finding a caregiver or a daycare for your child can be a stressful, guilt-ridden experience. Take this advice from a twenty-five-year veteran parent. But it doesn’t have to be if you do some research, preparation, and some mindfulness training. Yes. Finding the right caregiver or daycare isn’t merely about finding the right place for your child. It’s about putting yourself in a good mindset when it comes to leaving your child in the care of someone else.

Let’s be honest. No one will love your kids as much as you do. No one will do a perfect job watching them and caring for them either, including you. So when the times comes when you must find a caregiver or daycare for your child, you should keep that in mind. No caregiver, even a licensed one will replace you and no daycare will ever be just like home. Sometimes, if you do your homework right, it can be a stimulating, safe, positive complement to your parenting.

And it might just be a healthy parenting break for you too!

How to choose the right childcare or daycare solution

 

Analyze yours and family’s schedule

Map out your work and family schedule on a master family calendar, one located where everyone in the family can see it. Figure out blocks of time when you will need coverage for your child or when you feel a real break might be most productive or beneficial for you. Knowing your schedule in advanced makes the childcare search more productive. You can immediately weed out caregivers or centers that don’t provide daycare when you need it. It also makes it easier to assess whether an individual caregiver flexible hours or an established daycare center with structured hours works better for your family.

How old is your child?

This is a real consideration. Not all caregivers or daycare centers take children younger than three months. Others are capable of caring for newborns as young as six weeks but stop when your child enters nursery or preschool ages.

Consider your child’s temperament

Is your child easygoing, flexible with change; or does he need predictable structure every minute of the day? Is your child shy and timid, upset easily with noise and chaos? Does your child have an outgoing, fiery personality? How does your child behave in new settings around new people? This should be a real consideration when interviewing childcare providers or daycare centers. You should ask the provider during the interview about their approaches with children who are afraid or how they handle the exuberant, explosive temperament.

Make a list of wants and needs

Make a list of needs and wants. Do you want lunch to be included in the cost or do you want the provider to serve your food. Does your child have allergies that require special food handling? Do you want the provider to feed breastmilk that you provide? Do you need early and late care? These are just some of the wants and needs you should list on your priority list. There should be others too. Consider setting, cleanliness, licensing, years of experience, location, religious orientation as some of your parameters.

Does your child have disabilities or special needs? If so, you will want to find a caregiver or daycare provider who has the expertise to work with your child.

Another consideration might be educational. Some early childhood centers feed directly into early elementary and then elementary. For example, Montessori programs frequently offer early childhood programs that begin at ages as young as three years. Other larger daycare centers incorporate kindergarten and take children between the ages of six weeks and six years.

A most important consideration is licensing. Not all childcare providers are licensed. More often than not, family home daycare providers do operate without state licensing. If having a licensed provider is important, check with the Office of Licensing through your state. Your state’s Department of Human Services may maintain a database of licensed providers.

Consider your budget

This is a major deciding factor for many parents. Many parents must choose a childcare or daycare provider based on economics rather than quality. As a result, many parents are forced into a situation where they worry about the welfare of their children.

According to Childcare Aware of America in a 2014 report, child care in the United States remains unaffordable for many parents. The average cost of child care in the United States can be as much as $14,508 annually for an infant, or $12,280 annually for a four-year-old in a center, and does not always guarantee a quality environment. After you figure out your expenses and the amount you can allocate to daycare, add that to your priority list.

If your income places you in the low- and moderate-income range, you may be eligible for state-subsidized child care “including preschool instruction, after-school programs for children up to age 13, and care for children and teens with special needs.” Check with your state’s Department of Human Services website for information on subsidies or childcare services.

Find childcare or daycare providers that meet our criteria

In many states, the Department of Health and Human Services maintains a database of licensed home daycare providers and daycare centers. The database frequently includes any licensing infractions or issues with the provider. There are also a number of online services that advertise services of childcare providers and pre-screen the providers with background checks. Sites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com maintain search engines with licensed providers or independent sitters that have passed background checks. Also the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides a search engine of accredited childcare programs as well as information on choosing an early childhood program, ways to find the best care for your child or infant, and tips to ease the transition from home day care with an individual caregiver to a daycare center.

Visit childcare or daycare facilities

Once you locate a few childcare or day care providers that fit your wish list, set up a time to visit and interview teachers and directors. The following are some questions to ask in your interview.

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have a current state license?
  • Do you have other accreditations?
  • How many children do you enroll at one time?
  • Do you have space for my child?
  • If not, can we get on a waiting list, and how long is it?
  • What are your hours?
  • What is your sick-child policy?
  • What’s your holiday schedule? On what other days are you closed?
  • How flexible are you with pickup and drop-off times?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do you offer scholarships or sibling discounts?
  • Is there a late-pickup fee?
  • How and when would you bill us?
  • Do you supply diapers, or is that up to the parent?
  • What other supplies would I need to bring for my child?
  • Do you encourage visits from parents?
  • What do you expect from me as a parent?
  • How do you communicate with parents? Will you give me a daily report or is there another process for informing parents of what children did during the day (naps, bottles, BMs, etc.)?
  • Can I bring my child in for a pre-enrollment visit?

And, do you have any references? A most important tip is to observe the children. Do children seem happy, relaxed, interactive?

Call references

Do call other parents who currently use or who have used the childcare provider. While visiting the provider, ask any parents you see questions, if they’re amendable.

Consider doing a trial run

A two- or three-day trial run can give you and the provider essential information. It can tell you if the relationship with your child and the childcare provider is a match, if the provider is who they say, and if your child is happy.

Monitor your child’s behavior

Preparation is the best prevention when leaving your child with a caregiver or daycare center. Know that separation anxiety is the norm, and if your child feels clingy before you leave is to be expected. The following video makes suggestions to parents about the separation process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Trauma Today Hurt Our Grandchildren Tomorrow?

Can trauma today hurt our grandchildren at some distant point in the future? It seems so. A new study just published in the latest issue of Pediatrics tells us that the greater the impact of trauma or violence in the home, the greater the risk that one’s children will show the scars all the way down to their DNA. The study, performed by researchers from the Tulane University School of Medicine, concludes that children in homes impacted by suicide, domestic violence, or a family member in prison have telomeres that are substantially shorter than would be found in children raised in more stable homes.

Telomeres protect the chromosomes from shrinking and deterioration. Some have compared telomeres to the protective plastic sheathing on the ends of shoelaces which serve to prevent shoelaces from unraveling. Seen in this light, telomeres serve as cellular markers for the aging process. Shorter telomeres equal a shortened lifespan and are considered to heighten the risk factor for such diseases as heart disease and diabetes while contributing as well to the risk for cognitive decline, mental illness, obesity, and general poor health in adulthood.

Can Trauma Today Hurt Our Grandchildren Tomorrow

Researchers at Tulane’s Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory, under the direction of laboratory director Dr. Stacy Drury, obtained genetic samples from 80 New Orleans children aged 5-15, and spoke to their parents about their environments in the home and with regard to traumatic life incidents and adversity. Dr. Drury, who served as lead author on the study said, “Family-level stressors, such as witnessing a family member get hurt, created an environment that affected the DNA within the cells of the children. The greater the number of exposures these kids had in life, the shorter their telomeres were—and this was after controlling for many other factors, including socioeconomic status, maternal education, parental age and the child’s age.”

Drury’s team discovered that gender influenced the way in which trauma influenced the children’s DNA. Trauma appeared to have a more severe impact on young girls, as evidenced by the higher rate of shortened telomeres in girls as compared to boys in subjects having experienced traumatic family life events. There was, on the other hand, a surprise finding that boys benefited from a mother’s higher level of education which was found to have a protective effect on telomere length, alas only in boys until the age of 10 years.

Drury believes the study results suggest that mediating the home environment could mitigate the biological effects of adversity on children.

Now for a personal note. I researched this piece because I wondered what might be the effect of a recent kidnapping in my community on my children. I was distressed to read about this study, because to me, the results suggest that the terrible events in my region might be shortening the lives of my children and grandchildren, since the damage to DNA is passed on to subsequent generations.

#EyalGiladNaftali

It is interesting to me on a sociological level: do violent societies die out in part because of damaged DNA? This is both alarming and reassuring to me. Violent terrorists and abusive spouses and parents are theoretically serving to kill off their own offspring, leaving the world to those healthier in both mind and body. Long life is deeded only to those who manage to raise children in a stable home environment.

That doesn’t mean that only criminals scar their offspring’s DNA, of course. An innocent person caught in a tragic situation—think Boston Marathon Bombing—has no choice in the matter: they become a party to violence in spite of their own normal, peaceful natures. That cuts me deep as a parent. I can’t always protect my children and their long-term health because of events perpetrated by those outside of my control. I can’t protect my children from the knowledge that three teenage boys were kidnapped by terrorists within walking distance of our home.

This fact also has me thinking about my children’s marriage prospects, as strange as that may sound. Has this kidnapping (and other traumatic events in my community, such as a suicide bombing attempt in our local supermarket, a drive-by terrorist shooting in which a neighbor’s mother was killed, and a shooting at a high school in which a neighbor’s young son was killed) cast suspicion on the DNA of my children and grandchildren, making them less desirable, biologically speaking, as life partners?

My husband would say I think too much.

Maybe so.

#BringBackOurBoys

 

Why Some People Make Better Grandparents

Why some people make better grandparents is a question you might have asked yourself from time to time. The question might pop up when you take the grandkids out to the park and watch the loving interactions between other sets of grandparents and grandchildren. It’s like any other skill set: you check your pulse by watching how others do it and feel kind of lousy when you decide you don’t measure up.

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start: We are all individuals.

It’s therefore important to remember that our grandparent to grandchild relationships might not resemble those of the other people we know but may be every bit as deep and meaningful. Our grand-parenting relationships just outwardly manifest in different ways. And that’s okay.

It is true, however, that some grandparents and their grandchildren, like the old song says, go together like a horse and carriage: they complement each other. Meanwhile, it’s also possible that a grandparent and grandchild may tend to clash, resembling nothing so much as oil and water. They just don’t mix or mesh well.

Now that’s to not to say you don’t love each other. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s just that you need to expend more effort to make the relationship work.

It all boils down to temperament. You probably knew this intuitively. Two people who are calm and low-key, will find it easy to get along. Two people who are happy, outgoing, boisterous and loud, on the other hand, won’t embarrass each other. They’ll feel comfortable in each others’ company. There’s no strain. It’s just so much easier.

why some people make better grandparents

Alas, we don’t get to pick and choose who we are at the core.

Are you thinking: “Heck. It’s not just that way with grandparents. It’s that way with married couples, parents and their children, friends, siblings, and etc.”

Except it’s not. It’s not like that because of the traditional role in which grandparents are cast in our society. Grandparents are benign and kindly. They bake cookies. They let the kids do whatever they most want to do. They buy them gifts.

That’s the grandparent we all love and know from the storybooks. So when things don’t go like that—not at all—well, we feel we’re not up to snuff. And it’s even worse if you live far away from the grandkids and your time together is limited. You want to make the most of that time and somehow things always veer south.

Let’s examine temperament. What is temperament exactly? Temperament is how we deal with ourselves and others and the way we feel and act in relation to various situations.

Temperament Classified

Psychologists Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess along with professor of pediatrics Herbert G. Birch created a classification for infant temperament in 1968, identifying nine types of temperament that could be relied upon to cover the temperament spectrum along a scale of high, medium, and low. In addition to temperament classification, the researchers hoped to show how such temperamental qualities influenced an individual’s adjustment to circumstances throughout his life and not only in infancy. The list of the nine qualities of temperament are presented below, with examples of questions you might ask about your grandchild and about yourself to get a better grasp of your own temperaments:

  1. Level of Activity: Are you always on the go, jiggling your feet, and tapping your fingers, or would you rather chillax motionless on the sofa? Are you at your finest in the early morning or are you a “night person?”
  2. Level of Self-Regulation: Are you a creature of habit or do you mix it up? Do you eat dinner at the same time every day? Go to bed at the same time? Or do you go with the flow? Is it important to you to be neat and punctual, or does it bother you not a bit to be a few minutes late for an appointment or to wake up to a messy household?
  3. Response to New Elements: When you encounter a new person, situation, or object, are you hesitant and reluctant, or enthusiastic? Do you approach or withdraw?
  4. Adaptive Behavior: Do you hate change or do you roll with the punches?
  5. Threshold of Responsiveness: How long does it take you to react to new situations? Do you catch on quickly or does it take you awhile to sense that something has changed and you need to react? For example, loud music doesn’t bother you at first, while the person next to you immediately leaves the room or puts her hands over her ears.
  6. Intensity of Reaction: Are you passionately effusive and emotional or mild, laconic, and laidback?
  7. Range of Emotion: Are you a cheery optimist or a pessimist that finds it hard to break down the barriers and warm up to people? Are you placid and happy or do you tend to get weepy quite easily? Are you friendly or kind of cold? Kind and pleasant or cranky and brusque?
  8. Level of Distractibility: Are you easily distracted from your work or can you remain focused at length? Are you well-organized or do you prefer spontaneity?
  9. Attention Span: Can you listen to long lectures without your mind wandering? Are you able to see tasks through to completion?

Thomas, Chess, and Birch, were able to break down these traits into further categories to classify individuals as easy, difficult, or slow to warm up. Are you a difficult person to get to know or are you the kind of person that everyone likes to know? Does it just take time for you to get to know people or are you comfortable with others right away?

Here is where it’s important to remember that temperament is not necessarily good or bad. A person can be very shy and find it hard to attend parties and events, but be a very loving person who is kind and generous. But of course, it’s easier to be with easygoing people, and a bit harder to draw out someone who is slow to warm up to people.

Now let’s take a look at your relationship with your grandchild. How would you classify your own temperament? Your grandchild’s? Are you two peas in a pod or vastly different? Are you at perfect ease in each other’s company, or do you find it an effort to make chitchat?

Peas In A Pod

If your temperaments are similar, you’re apt to have an easier time of things. Both up at the crack of dawn? Take early morning nature walks together. Love to laze around on a Sunday morning and have breakfast in bed? Get all cozy together and read out loud. Stay in jammies half the day.

Polar Opposites

But let’s say you’re an emotional person and your grandchild is more subdued. Your grandchild may find your natural behavior worrisome and may even be a little afraid of you. You’ll have to find a halfway point at which to meet and it will take more work than the “two peas in a pod” grandparent to child relationship.

On the other hand, you’ll end up benefiting each other in a positive way, if you can find the right balance. Your subdued grandchildren may learn that it’s okay to run through a sprinkler and get wet— that it’s even FUN. Meanwhile, you may learn to pay attention to others before you burst out with a loud, effusive response. You may have to (yikes) moderate your behavior. Just a bit.

why some people make better grandparents

Are you a neatnik and your grandchild an utter slob? Learn to compromise. But don’t hesitate to insist on at least a few ground rules when your grandchild visits your home. You’ll learn not to care so much about external appearances and your grandchild will learn to be more orderly.

This kind of give and take, as mentioned earlier, can be mutually beneficial, but it’s an ongoing process. It may not be the easiest kind of relationship—the “perfect fit” relationship you’ve always craved and envied—but both of you will gain what you would not have had together if things been as easy as pie.

Note that there is a starting point from which everything flows, and that is found in acknowledging differences. What you will eventually come to learn from each other is tolerance and how to play your temperaments off of each other to play your relationship to best advantage. But first comes acknowledgment. Without it, you can’t pass go—not you or your grandchild. It’s the only way to make your grandparent to grandchild relationship the best it can be.