Dear Dr. Michelle:
We have a grandchild that is 2 years old. We get together for family events and occasional family dinners, but my daughter will not let us babysit or allow our grandchild to spend the night. When we ask her why she just says that she is not ready. It really hurts our feelings and we are not sure what to do about this. How can you help?
Ed and Carol
Dear Ed and Carol:
I am sorry you are going through this; I certainly understand why this would hurt your feelings. At face value, it appears that your daughter is not being completely direct because she may actually be trying to avoid hurting your feelings.
There could be a multitude of reasons why your daughter is not ready to let you babysit and why she is being so vague. Prepare yourselves to talk about this with your daughter by creating a list of all the reasons you think somebody would have for not wanting their child to stay at somebody’s house. Here are some typical reasons parents give:
- Concerns about the ability to provide adequate supervision: inability to see, hear, pick-up or monitor the child’s safety or whereabouts;
- Concerns about parenting techniques or how the child will be emotionally treated: how the child gets spoken to in terms of tone, yelling, sarcasm, making jokes or poking fun, lack of providing comfort when the child is crying;
- Protecting the wishes of others: sometimes an adult child is stuck in the middle and is simply representing the requests of a partner/spouse, or when older children are involved, they could be representing that child’s own wishes;
- Family history issues: this can include a history of abuse or habits around the use of alcohol or other substances. There could also be concerns about other family members coming into the home and interacting with the child that are unwelcome by the child’s parent(s);
- Distrust that the parent wishes will not be honored: child having access to gifts/candy/treats, access to TV or movies, engaging in activities that the parents disagrees with, religious beliefs not being followed, etc.
After this exercise, you can take a more active next step. Invite your daughter to have a conversation with you. It is OK to tell her that you are hurt by her decision and you would like to have a direct conversation with her about her concerns. Share the list you generated; this could give your daughter the words to use and make it easier for her to tell you.
Be aware, this step will only work if you can actually handle hearing the real reason. Not only will you want to be prepared for what she has to say, you will want to show your daughter that you can handle it by really listening, remaining calm and not getting defensive. Remember that understanding her reason does not mean that you have to agree with it; you will, however, want to accept it as her reason.
If talking about the situation together does not change her mind, you can try showing your daughter different behavior. You need to demonstrate that you can be trusted to do, or not do, what your daughter is concerned about. But be patient, it takes time for people to build trust.
You could also suggest another type of arrangement to build trust and create special time with your grandchild. For example, invite your daughter and grandchild to spend the night at your house together. Or, see about you both spending the night over at her house. While together, tell your daughter that you want to help relieve her of the parenting work as much as possible, and then do everything you can to give her a break.
Just remember that no matter what you do or say, you cannot force your daughter to be honest with you, change her decision, or try different types of arrangements. All you can do is make every attempt to understand her point of view and present alternatives. In the end, if she will not budge, you will want to accept her decision, try to make peace with it and treasure all of the other moments you do get with your grandchild.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
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