January 20, 2010


We recently were talking to our great/grandchildren about jobs and work, and had even read books about it. One day, as we were walking along the beach boardwalk, we saw some life guards. We talked about what lifeguards do, how fit they have to be, and how often they were at the beach, because not all days are sunny and nice. We were asked by the great/grandchildren about whether lifeguards work on rainy days. We explained that they probably get paid a salary (what people are paid for their work), but we weren’t sure who paid them and if they got paid for days they actually weren’t at the beach. The four year old asked if one of us would go with him to talk to the lifeguards, and so off we went.

We’ve all heard that “kids say the darndest things”, well, we’re here to testify that it’s true. We approached the lifeguards, and out came…”Who pays your celery?” After the lifeguards picked their jaws up off the sand, they gave a too thorough explanation. They figured an intense question deserved an intense answer, including the fact that they get paid by the County, the County collects taxes and where property taxes go, etc.

Children ask questions because they are trying to sort things out for themselves and make sense of their world, and they should be encouraged to do so. That age old question “where did I come from?” is the perfect example of a simple question being answered in a very complicated and sometimes confusing way.

The answers we give should be a good fit with where the child is in their development. Gauging the child’s real interest in the question is also another guide for your answer. Simple answers may lead to more complicated ones if the child pursues it farther

So what does this have to do with great/grandparenting? Children don’t have set times to ask questions…it happens all the time, day and night, and if we’re physically with the kids, on Skype, on email or the phone with them, we will be asked to answer a multitude of questions. Answer everyday questions truthfully, keeping in mind the age and development of your great/grandchild.

However, as we’ve stated before, it’s important to be respectful of the parent’s point of view. In preparation for some of those “tender topic” questions (birth, death, divorce, Santa, tooth fairy, religion, etc.), you might want to discuss these with the parents, and be prepared to answer in a way that’s truthful to you and respectful of the family. It may be useful to help children understand that answers to questions may result in disagreement as people believe in different things…and that’s OK