Child Caring

Stopping parents' fighting starts with acknowledging it, not pretending you don't know.

I am aware that my daughter and son-in-law have horrible screaming matches in front of my 1 year old grandson. Drinking is sometimes a factor, stress and workload are others. Neighbours have been involved in calming them down and separating them in order to cool down the situation. These same neighbours have spoken to me out of concern. I recognize the danger of this situation and its ongoing effect on my grandson and feel I need to discuss this with them. How do I initiate the conversation, when they don't know that I am as aware of the problem as they think? I want them to manage this, not wave me off as if it's all imagined or exaggerated. Thanks.

From: Joanne, Toronto

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Dear Joanne,

There are times when grandparents must keep quiet. This is not one of them. Make an appointment with the two of them when you know they will both be sober and when your grandson is asleep. Tell them you have something you need to say. Then tell the truth. That you know they sometimes fight and scream at each other; that you know it has reached a point where neighbors have been involved (you don't need to be specific about how you know); and that you know it sometimes happens in front of your grandson. Share your concerns -- studies show that parental fighting is linked to aggression and anxiety in children, as well as poor academic performance.

Here's perhaps the hardest part: You need to present this in a non-judgmental way. You are not pointing fingers, or assigning blame. You want the best for your grandson, who you dearly love, and for them. Offer your support to help them find the support they need to get their anger management and/or drinking issues under control. Your job isn't to solve the problem, it's to help them start the conversation that will enable them to seek solutions. There's an elephant in the room and everyone needs to acknowledge it. They have a problem. What are they going to do?

PS. You might like this book, "Don't Bite Your Tongue, Parenting Adult Children" by Ruth Nemzoff.

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