by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.

How have you reacted to all the turmoil and unrest we’ve seen in our country in recent weeks and months? And do you know how it’s affecting your grandkids?

This week my wife, Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield, challenged fathers to check in with their children about all these issues. And although most grandparents aren’t the main influencers for our grandkids, we are strong influencers and can play a part in helping them feel safe and heard during this time.

So, I want to share a few of Michelle’s insights as they might apply to grandparents.

First, to be clear, I am not here to make any political statements. That isn’t what we’re about at Grandkids Matter; there are plenty of other people and groups putting out commentary and videos on all different sides.

But I do encourage you to share your perspective with your grandkids, which will be different in some ways from what their parents are saying. You have likely lived through similar events in the past, whether it’s war demonstrations, race-related marches, transfers of power, political scandals and impeachments, terrorist attacks, and numerous other tragedies, acts of violence, protests, and impassioned calls for change. You’ve also seen people come together to bring healing and positive change because of times of unrest and uncertainty.

Reflect for a minute on all that’s happened in your life, all the up-and-down swings you’ve witnessed, and maybe who helped you process them at that time in your life. Capture a few grandchild-appropriate stories about how you responded back then, and your perspective on those events many years later. Based on what you’ve seen, what brings you hope about the future?

Don’t you agree that you have a valuable point of view?

Once you’ve gathered a few thoughts about all this, find a time to talk with your grandchildren. As Michelle wisely points out, they may have some strong opinions and some strong emotions associated with what’s been happening in our country, and the point isn’t to start a debate, but to listen, comfort, and affirm them.

Draw them out by asking what they experienced and how they felt about a particular recent event. How have they been feeling since? Happy? Sad? Angry? Scared? Confused? Although you probably have a lot to share, listening should be your first and most important objective. Then, if it seems they are open to it, maybe you can share about some relevant experiences and insights from your life.

Most of all, communicate your love and a hope for their future. Remind them often: “I love you.” “I believe in you.” “We’re here for you.”

If you can make your grandchild feel heard and supported, that’s a huge positive for them and will likely help them have confidence for whatever the future may bring.

Keep up the good work, grandparents!

How have you been able to comfort and support your grandkids during trying times? Please share your experiences and insights on our Facebook page.