QUESTION: My ex-daughter-in-law gives "lip service" to the importance
of education, but is lax about sending my two grandchildren to school.
They are out a lot for illness, but when that happens, they are always
going somewhere. I believe if the children are sick they should stay
at home ... not go to McDonald's or Burger King. They are 9 and 11.
It worries me that they aren't taking school seriously.
ANSWER: Your situation is a difficult
one and needs to be handled with great sensitivity. You are a concerned
grandparent. Grandparents sometimes have a vantage point beyond the
younger generation because they enjoy less pressure in their role
and can see a larger perspective. No doubt your views hold some validity.
Still, your observations might benefit from a bit of research to confirm
the conclusions you have drawn.
Talk with your grandchildren about their school activities.
Find out how they are doing in school, what activities they enjoy,
and how often they miss school.
Approach your ex-daughter-in-law with curiosity and
warmth, rather than judgment. She will pick up the meaning of your
tone more than your words. So you may need to search yourself for
the positive ways she nurtures her children before engaging in a dialogue
about their education. Once you develop a rapport, start with your
shared belief that education IS important. Direct the conversation
towards the children. Ask how they are doing in school. Find out what
subjects are their favorites and which areas are difficult. Steer
the conversation in the direction of what can be done to either support
or develop their academic pursuits.
If your grandchildren are performing well at school,
your perspective may change. If they are doing poorly or having difficulties,
your discussion could prove helpful. If you are right to assume that
illnesses are preventing them from learning due to absences, offer
a helping hand, rather than criticism. It is possible, too, that your
ex-daughter-in-law is struggling with single motherhood and would
accept some helpful suggestions if they are not aimed at criticizing
her. Establish yourself as a potential resource. (Perhaps you could
be available to help by bringing over meals, to decrease a reliance
on fast food!) Bring up your concerns only after you have communicated
a positive intent to help and made some efforts to show your willingness
to get involved. But use a soft approach, rather than a harsh one.
Do not underestimate your influence as a grandparent.
Let your grandchildren know the value of education and help steer
them towards educational activities. For example, the birthday gifts
you buy can serve educational needs. And paying for special classes
or tutoring can make a big difference in a child's perceptions about
education and improve academic performance. Spend time with your grandchildren
individually, if possible. If you are at a great distance, develop
email or other communication to create an ongoing dialogue with them.
Offer your help by having a relationship with them that allows you
to pass on your values by discussing the opportunities open to them
with an education. A grandparent can motivate ... and inspire!
Express your concerns with a genuine intent to involve
yourself in the solution. Remember, one person can make a difference
in a child's life. That person can be a parent, a grandparent, an
aunt, an uncle, a teacher, or a friend who has the child's best interests
at heart and believes in that child. That is why so many successful
adults answer the question "Who was the biggest influence in your
life?" with "My grandmother!" or "My grandfather!"