“It’s never too early to learn about the cycle of life and death, so just do it at an age-appropriate level,” says Dr. Bertoli, adding that explanations should be aligned with the family’s spiritual beliefs.
For example, explain and repeat the permanency of death when talking to a four-year-old, as the concept is new at this age. “You may say, ‘This means you won’t see someone again, but you’ll have them in your heart, and they can stay there forever.’” By around age 8, children will already understand the permanency of death, so taking a more factual approach is more effective. “Have them look up life cycles of the different things around them, such as a bird, a fish, and a person,” Dr. Bertoli advises. “Talking about different life cycles will give them a tangible understanding that bodies last for a certain amount of time, and then they’re gone. That’s just the way of life.”
It might not be what your grandchildren picture when they think of you now, but the version of you that attended the original Woodstock sure had a wild side. Don’t feel pressured to go into details that you aren’t comfortable discussing, but avoid answering questions about your past vices with lies.
This question will typically come from your grandchildren in their adolescence, at which point Novell advises a frank answer. “The answer is, ‘Yes, I have tried it, I liked it at one point, and at one point I didn’t like it,’” he says. “It then becomes a whole conversation of how it was when you were young, and how you were willing to experiment, but were wise enough to know when you were in the danger zone.”
There is a fine line between teaching your grandchildren to respect and obey grown-ups, and teaching them that grown-ups are right all of the time. Whether it’s a strict teacher or a too-tough soccer coach, distinguish between obeying their rules during school and practice hours, and looking up to them as infallible merely because they are adults in authority positions. “Telling a child that the adult’s voice is more important than their voice is a lie,” says Dr. Bertoli. “Some of the worst lies we tell children are the subliminal messages that their voices do not matter.”
This is not to be confused with taking your grandchild’s side in discipline disputes with a teacher. “Explain that when they’re in school, that that’s a time when they should follow the rules. It’s a distinction between the overarching message and the distinct situational message,” says Dr. Bertoli. “There are rules we need to follow, but separate from that, your voice matters.”
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.