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November 10, 2008 | Laura | Comments 0

Worried Grandparents

When I write any piece of information for this site, I always try to imagine who will read it and put it into practice.  In my mind, this mostly means I write for concerned moms and maybe touchy-feely dads. (No offense guys! I’m married to a man that I’d classify as a touchy-feely dad!) 

I think about new professionals hungry for information to help them with a new client, or I think about grad students who will read anything they can get their hands on!  I even regularly hear from what I’ve come to appreciate as ”seasoned” (NOT OLD!!) professionals who thankfully aren’t so cynical or so tired that they are on auto-pilot and actually still care enough to try to track down new ideas. 

But I have to say, I never think about grandparents reading my stuff.  

That doesn’t mean that I don’t talk to grandparents.  I see a few grandmas pretty regularly during visits with my own little friends on my own caseload.  I also talk to my own mother nearly everyday, who at any given time, is very worried about one grandchild or another in our own family. 

Until recently, I had heard from only a handful of grandmothers on this site, but lately it seem like they’re coming out of the woodwork!  Here are a couple of examples of ones I’ve received -    

“My grandson just moved to our hometown. He is four years old and still struggling with speech. I do have to say that I have searched the Internet far and wide for suggestions to help him. I have to tell
you that your website has been the most helpful to me. My grandson has had an explosion of words, complete setences, and questions in the last two months……
I am so afraid that he is not getting what he needs. I feel like I should do my best to keep language alive. When I pick him up from daycare, we sing songs. He likes for me to read Go, Dogs, Go by Dr. Suess. He has started to even repeat words in the book. We blow bubbles, play horns, and drink from straws. I’m not a speech therapist, but I can’t just sit back and wait while nothing happens. Since, I have tried some of your suggestions, my grandson is “picking up and running with words.”    

“……grandparents can sometimes be more or surely ‘as much’ of an ADVOCATE for a child as parents.  Parents are pretty caught up in the everyday and constant supervision, etc. that children 1, 3, even 4 or so require.  Keeps one hoppin’ — I recall those days.  Grandparents may have more total time and have Life’s experiences, etc. behind them ….”
“My granddaughter will turn 4 on Halloween, Oct. 31.  She does not talk in words at this age — an obvious concern to her parents and grandparents…”
“Thanks again for your website….  I will keep pursuing various help …….   we can SO  take for granted a child following the normal speech development path and it so throws you when you have a grandchild near age 4 who says NO  WORDS ! “
As I responded to those individual e-mails, I started to piece together an article for what grandparents can do for grandchildren who are language-delayed.
My first and most important piece of advice for grandparents is to be very sensitive to parents’ feelings, especially during the initial diagnosis phase. I have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful grandparents of children I’ve seen over the years, and then I’ve had some that were so un-supportive that it made my heart break.  Occasionally there is a mother who is oblivious to the fact that her child is in real trouble developmentally, so then she does become resentful of anyone who points it out, especially if that happens to be her mother-in-law
If this is your situation, discussing the weird family dynamics of this alone could take up the entire post, so I won’t.  My own family’s track record would also bear that I don’t have successful advice for this situation, other than to gently and kindly keep talking about how concerned you are about the child without making it sound like an indictment of someone’s parenting skills (or lack there of).
One thing that seems to be helpful to some families is for the grandparents to at least offer to go to initial diagnostic session/s.  Another pair of ears to listen, or most often, another pair of hands to help take care of the cranky child after the evaluation is complete so that the parents can fully listen, is appreciated.  If you’re the outspoken type, you may have to promise to be seen and not heard during this visit so that your grown child will allow you to go. Support does not mean high-jacking the conversation with the evaluators!     

One thing you might want to offer after the evaluation is to assist the parents in researching and exploring treatment options. Helping a stressed mom wade thru websites and books for useful information would always be welcomed IF your advice and offers to help are given knowing that a parent has the right to take it or leave it. 

The best result of all of this independent research is that you yourself will become educated in what’s going on with your grandchild. Information makes us all more useful, even if you just become the sounding board for a mom and dad who could use extra reassurances that they are doing all they can, and someone who will firmly, but lovingly, remind them when they are not.    

Another great thing I’ve heard from many grandparents lately is that they taken on some of the “treatment” themselves.  If your grandchild is language delayed, read the articles on this site and learn the techniques from the DVDs to start your own “grandma” therapy sessions. My own mother tries to do this with all of her grandchildren who are toddlers and young preschoolers.  She recognizes how important language skills are for future academic success, and she’s made the most of visits to Mimi’s house.   

If you can help financially with the extra expense of costly therapy, by all means, do so.  Sometimes I notice that my own older clients’ therapy sessions have been funded by grandparents when I read their names on the check.  

Support can come in all kinds of non-financial ways too!  If you can’t help pay, offer to drive your grandchild to sessions, or babysit any other children at home so that mom and dad can fully participate instead of chasing around a young (or older) brother or sister.  

If you aren’t available during the week, go and pick up the other grandchildren on the weekends so that mom and dad have uninterrupted time to do all of the “homework” they need to do with the child who needs focused therapy time at home in order to make progress.  

One wonderful idea the mother of a little girl on my own caseload shared with me today is that instead of buying her grandchild a toy or clothes for her birthday, the grandmother purchased a session of classes at a local baby gymnastics facility for her language-delayed granddaughter.  The grandmother picks up the grandchild for the class one morning every week so that they can spend one-on-one time together, just “GG” and grandbaby.  This is win-win for everyone in this family since this is child #4, and her busy mother needs the break! 

Lastly, I want to encourage you to NOT make this grandchild any less special because of whatever issue this may turn out to be.  I’ve seen so many grandparents (and their own grown children!) struggle with very difficult toddlers during very difficult developmental patches.  Some children do get better and “grow out of it” (with the help of therapy and whatever else their committed parents do!)  Unfortunately, some children do not. Grandparents sometimes have to grieve too when it becomes obvious that a child may not ever be what you’ve dreamed and hoped.   

My hope for you as a grandparent is that you can rise to the occasion and love and support your family and this child come-what-may.  A grandparent’s attention and devotion may be what helps pull this child, and his or her parents, through a very traumatic time for all of you. But as the grandmother above pointed out, your life experiences alone uniquely qualify you to be able to help not only your grandchild who deserves it, but your grandchild’s parents, who most likely desperately need it!  


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