This month’s Dear Sarah: Kids Today
I am writing to you because I cannot really speak openly to my friends about this matter.
Many of my friends are close with their grandchildren. Up until this year, I was extremely close with mine too. However things have changed with my oldest granddaughter, Ava, since she got a smartphone for her birthday. Every time she visits, she is glued to it. She does not want to chat, cook with me, or go shopping. She is looking at Snapchat and texting friends. Her mother will force her to put her phone away, but then she is just miserable and acts like she would rather be anywhere else except with me.
What should I say to my daughter about this situation—and also to my granddaughter? Give me some good advice for my family, Sarah.
It is natural for you to want to spend time with Ava. To do this, you must work on making sure that she enjoys your company too. You can improve your relationship with her by respecting her needs. As a teenager (I assume she is), she needs time alone, and time with her peers. It’s not that Ava doesn’t care for you; her priority is learning the social skills she will need to be an independent adult. She can best learn that from friends.
That doesn’t mean that she can’t have a relationship with you as well. As the adult, you should be the one to create opportunities for the two of you to develop a “grown-up” relationship. How about a few short visits to your daughter’s house instead of the twice-yearly ones to yours? That way Ava can see you without disrupting her life. Find out what’s on her mind. Better yet, if you can’t beat them, join them! Ask for her help with a new app on your phone! My husband’s 90 year-old grandfather is active on social media, and texts all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Communicate with her on her own medium.
By the way, try not to get too caught up in your friends’ game of bragging about “perfect” children and grandchildren. People are not trophies to be won and displayed. The pressure of competition is sure to complicate and even sour relationships with the people you care about the most. Ava deserves the best you can give her; a bubbe who cares about her and her needs; a bubbe she can love.
JFS is publishing a new advice column that will appear in each issue of the Jewish VOICE. Submit your questions, and receive answers and advice from one of our licensed therapists. Names and details will be altered in published letters to protect your privacy. All letters will be answered and can be viewed on our website.