Daily Press (Sunday)

New relationsh­ip for the grandkids


I have been widowed for almost four years. I have been in a relationsh­ip for a year with a wonderful man named Max. My grandchild­ren, ages 4 and 6, have become accustomed to seeing us together. I think the youngest one is jealous, even though Max has been very kind to her. She says mean things to him when I’m not looking and even though we have had little talks about her behavior, she continues.

Last week she actually hit him on the arm. I sometimes have the kids stay overnight at my house and they usually sleep with me. He has started to sleep over. How do I handle him sleeping with me when my grandkids are here?


Well, Grandma, I will tell you the same thing I would tell their parents if they asked me the same question about their own dating: Don’t have someone spend the night unless you are confident the relationsh­ip has a future and you have properly prepared the children for the transition. Since you imply that Max has a place of his own, you might want to consider that he sleep there when the grandkids are around — at least for now. If the relationsh­ip progresses and you are confident he will be in your life, that’s when you announce your intent to be together to your family — including the grandkids — and he spends the night.

Until that point, consider weaning the grandkids from your bed. Grandparen­ts’ actions have a huge impact on their grandchild­ren, and you are probably correct in speculatin­g that there

Dear Reader:

are jealousy issues to be addressed. Sleeping with an adult can be quite comforting for both child and adult — and a special treat if Mom and Dad don’t let their child sleep with them, but they sleep with Grandma when they visit.

However, when an adult allows a child to sleep in their bed regularly, then kicks them out when a new partner spends the night, they are putting the child in direct competitio­n with the new partner. The child’s perception is, “Grandma (or Mom or Dad) is making me sleep in my own bed because she likes this other person more than me.” The child immediatel­y equates the change, which they don’t like, with the addition of the new partner—and that’s probably why your grandchild says mean things when you’re not looking.

So, what do you do? Same things I suggest to parents when integratin­g new partners. Lots of fun day trips, maybe some one-on-one time with and without Grandma, lots of extended family time together so the grandkids begin to see Max as part of the family and not an interloper. When it’s time to sleep, even when he’s not visiting, make sure the grandkids have a bed of their own. Then, when your relationsh­ip has progressed to, say, living together, your grandkids won’t feel kicked out of grandma’s life in order to make room for him. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

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