Par­ent­ing

Psy­chol­o­gist AN­NIE GURTON ex­plains how to cope when you learn your kids won’t be hav­ing chil­dren of their own

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Con­tents - An­nie Gurton

Keep your cool on the back to school

For many, be­ing a grandparent is one of life’s great­est joys. But what hap­pens when you don’t get that op­por­tu­nity? Whether your chil­dren choose not to have kids or they’re med­i­cally un­able to, this can have a huge and po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on would-be grand­par­ents.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal ther­a­pist An­nie Gur­ton says it’s OK to feel dis­ap­pointed. “It’s very nat­u­ral to want grand­chil­dren and to feel deeply hurt if you’ve been de­prived of hav­ing them,” she says.

Here, we look at how to best han­dle this topic with care.

IF THEY DON’T WANT KIDS

Hear­ing your child doesn’t want to have chil­dren can be a shock­ing blow. While you may feel dis­ap­pointed and sad, it’s best to keep those emo­tions to your­self ini­tially.

“You might be tempted to ar­gue, plead, maybe even to try to ma­nip­u­late them with a bit of pas­sive-ag­gres­sive rea­son­ing, but at the end of the day it’s your child’s choice,” says An­nie. Bear in mind this isn’t a de­ci­sion made lightly, so crit­i­cis­ing their rea­son­ing be­hind it could be in­sult­ing.

“Take pride in your child’s hon­esty and re­spect them for mak­ing a choice which is dif­fi­cult,” ad­vises An­nie. “Ac­knowl­edg­ing this will ul­ti­mately make the de­ci­sion eas­ier for you to live with.”

IF THEY CAN’T HAVE KIDS

If your daugh­ter or son tells you they’re not phys­i­cally able to have chil­dren, the an­nounce­ment should be greeted with all the grav­ity and sen­si­tiv­ity of a death.

“For most peo­ple, to be told they’re un­able to have chil­dren is deeply dev­as­tat­ing news and could take months or years to come to terms with,” An­nie says.

“It will re­quire all of your ma­tu­rity and sen­si­tiv­ity to sup­port them with­out pa­tro­n­is­ing them, and com­fort them with­out us­ing plat­i­tudes.”

WHAT NOT TO SAY

“Avoid trite re­as­sur­ances and just try to imag­ine your­self in their shoes and what they’re go­ing through,” says An­nie.

Steer clear of phrases such as, “You might change your mind”, “There are al­ready plenty of chil­dren in the world to adopt”, or even, “I can still live in hope”.

In­stead, say things like, “That must make you feel re­ally sad” or “If that makes you happy, then I’m happy for you”.

Even if they’re con­tent about choos­ing to be child­less, it’s bet­ter to say, “That’s a brave de­ci­sion to make” rather than “You’ll re­gret it when you’re old”.

IT’S OK TO GRIEVE

The first step to com­ing to terms with their de­ci­sion is to ac­knowl­edge your own pain and any in­jus­tice you may feel.

“The sec­ond step is giv­ing your­self per­mis­sion to grieve,” says An­nie. “There’s nothing wrong with in­dulging one­self in the pain and sad­ness, even cry­ing a lit­tle, pro­vided you can then put the thoughts to

one side and get on with things.”

When we’re hurt we of­ten turn to our near­est and dear­est for a shoulder to cry on. “It’s al­ways best to share your feel­ings with your fam­ily,” says An­nie. “Just make sure that once you ex­plain how you feel you let it go – don’t harp on and on about it.”

MAK­ING CON­NEC­TIONS

Now that you’ve ac­knowl­edged your feel­ings, it’s time to comes to terms with the de­ci­sion. If you find your­self long­ing for a con­nec­tion, look for out­lets where you can use your grand­par­ent­ing in­stincts.

“Try and con­nect with a fam­ily who lack a se­nior fig­ure,” says An­nie. “Your local so­cial ser­vices, coun­cil or pri­mary school may be able to help.” While this might not be what you imag­ined, it’s pos­si­ble to have a life with­out grand­chil­dren that is very happy and sat­is­fy­ing.

“There is only a void if you al­low there to be one,” says An­nie. “If you’re still strug­gling, sur­round your­self with other grand­child-less peo­ple and think about get­ting in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties... for adults only.”

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