I am planning to have some cosmetic surgery this summer — specifically a facelift and an eye lift. How should I prepare my grandchildren?
The most important thing you can do to prepare the kids for Grammy looking different on the outside is to be the same Grammy on the inside. Whether your grandchildren are 4 or 14, what they care most about are your hugs, your laugh, and the treats you smuggle in your handbag. As long as those things don't change, their adjustment to the new you should be wrinkle-free.
Children are egocentric. Their world revolves almost exclusively around their own feelings, needs, and desires. You don't have to spend much time explaining why you had cosmetic surgery — they don't really care. If it doesn’t directly affect them, they aren’t likely to be very interested. Besides, they can’t really relate to your desire to shave a few years off your looks.
Children still think they're immortal. You may have felt that your appearance was out of sync with how old you feel on the inside (which for me continues to be about 17), but your grandkids won't understand that. They’re young, and as far as they're concerned, they always will be.
That said, depending on the children’s ages, you may want to tell them about your face-lift in advance so they aren’t caught off guard when they first see you after the surgery. Let them know that a doctor is going to do some work on your face that will smooth some of your wrinkles, and that you might look a little different when they see you next.
After the surgery, be prepared for some surprised looks or awkward questions. If you look radically different, the kids will let you know. They might blurt out, "What happened to your face?" or, "Why are your eyes bigger?" without considering how their questions might make you feel.
Don’t take any comments personally. The more relaxed you are, the easier you'll make it for the kids to react authentically, and the sooner they’ll be comfortable with the changes. Answer their questions honestly, whether they ask why you had the surgery, where the wrinkles went, or when the puffiness will go away. Also be aware that some kids may ask nothing right away, but might have questions weeks later. Just be patient and give the children time to get used to the changes in your face, and they'll adapt.
In the unlikely event that one or more grandchildren have real trouble getting used to your new look, encourage them to speak honestly. If you appear hurt or upset by their reaction, they’ll become embarrassed, and reluctant to be candid. It’s better to get their discomfort out in the open so you can help them come around than to suggest that their feelings are wrong or bad.
Finally, make sure you show them that you're still you. Sing off-key the way you always have, offer your special hugs or tickles, or bring them your famous banana bread. As long as you're still the same grandmother the kids have always known and loved, they're sure to grow accustomed to your (new) face.
Elsewhere on Grandparents.com, see the therapist's response to a question about telling children about serious illness, learn about 5 mistakes even good grandparents make, discover 7 ways to stay active with grandkids indoors, and join the discussion about how grandchildren show that they love you.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.