Dr. Lillian Carson

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The Essential Grandparent
Q & A: Ask Dr. Carson

Here's your chance to get talk to Dr. Lillian Carson. Receive her expert advice or tell stories about yourself, your grandchildren, your families and your good ideas.

Dear Dr. Carson: The battle is now coming to the end. The trial for the abuse and neglect charges of my deceased daughter's children is July 30th, 31st and Aug. 1. Also, my Web site is finally up, www.grandgifts.org. You will see a mention of you. A few weeks ago, I was telling a friend that I was born poor, married rich (divorced and went back to being poor), and that I had never envied, or felt inferior when mingling with the people I did. I broke that trend when I started really reading about you. I had no idea who you really were, except that you had authored the well know book, The Essential Grandparent™. Your accomplishments are amazing! And, yet, you seem so down to earth. I am in awe of you. Would you be willing to make a statement to my lawyer about the essential relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, as an authority? I have been reluctant to ask you, because I know how busy you are, but I have to do whatever I can to strengthen our case. We are going to have a tough fight. The Guardian ad Lidem and the psychologist she insisted on using for the evaluation of the kids, are both prejudiced against me. Here in Florida, the majority of the voters are prejudiced against any grandparent wanting rights of visitation, and the law is with them. Before my time is up, I want to be instrumental in changing that. I hope to hear from you soon. Keep up your good work! Love,--Louise

Dear Louise: Here's my statement. Perhaps you should also give your lawyer a copy of my book. Others have done this and it has been useful. Please keep in touch and let me know what happens. Good luck.


Grandparents are outside of the daily grind that the parents must cope with. This gives them a perspective quite different from that of the parents. They also enjoy the wisdom of gathered experience. Therefore, grandparents have a unique contribution to make to the grandchildren and families. Consider their greatest offerings:

  1. Unconditional love and acceptance
           Everyone needs someone who believes in them, someone who accepts them "as is".
  2. Modeling a good life
           The way grandparents life their lives--their values, attitudes and actions--sends a loud and clear message those who follow. When life is lived with energy and purpose, grandparents signal hope for the future sending the message that life is good and that it continues to be worthwhile as one gets older.
  3. Providing family continuity
           Grandparents are the family's connection to the past. Knowing where you come from is an important ingredient in building your identity. Connecting your grandchildren to the family's roots provides that link and renews the meaning of family.
  4. Ensuring stability and security
           Grandparents are there to lend a helping hand, to encourage and support their grandchildren.
           Grandchildren understand these gifts which enable them to have roots into the past and wings to try themselves out - to go for it. In these ways, grandparent give their grandchildren roots and wings and the satisfying life this brings.

Children inherit not only the legacies that their elders impart but also the void that is left by what they withhold.

Grandparents, never doubt it: You are essential!

Excerpted from the Parents' Choice Award winning book The Essential Grandparent™: A Guide To Making A Difference by Dr. Lillian Carson © 1996 by Dr. Lillian Carson

Dear Dr. Carson: My best friend is broken hearted. Her son and his girlfriend, following a succession of arguments, have kept their children from seeing their grandparents. She looked after the little boy right from when he was a baby up to the time he started school so that his Mother could continue to work. They now have a little girl of two years old and my friend has looked after her also for the past 18 months.

However, due to osteo-arthritis my friend is no longer fit and healthy to look after them and this has caused a major rift. There are other issues but her son did not visit her on Mother's Day and when she tries to phone the children the phone is put down. Their grandad (her husband) has tried to sort out everything but her son just says that he will never let them see the children again. Is there anything that can be done about this? I feel so sorry for her because she loves the children dearly.

Thank you in anticipation of your help and advice. --Christine

Dear Christine: What a sad predicament for the grandparents but especially for the grandchildren who are obviously attached to them. It is difficult to apply logic to such clearly emotionally charged decisions. I assume your friends are in England, as you are, and I am not familiar with the laws there. However I urge the grandparents not to give up. Send little things in the mail with notes (i.e. stickers, pictures) Mediation sometimes works in such situations. A competent mediator can bring two warring sides together with surprising, positive outcomes. Of course, it requires both sides to agree to meet with a mediator. I write about this in my book The Essential Grandparent's™ Guide to Divorce: Making a Difference in the Family. Unfortunately there are no easy answers but not giving up and continuing to reach out is a good start. Are there any friends of the daughter's who might intervene on behalf of the grandparents? Keep thinking creatively. Do let me know what happens.

Dear Dr. Carson: Thank you so much for your help and advice. My friends are in England and I will certainly pass on your most welcome advice. I have been trying to support and listen to them both but they are very distraught and distressed about it all. However, following your advice I feel there may be some hope on the horizon because I think my friend's sister may be prepared to act as a Mediator. Naturally she is a close family member so I think it could help this situation.

Once again many thanks for all your help. It is greatly appreciated.

Dear Dr. Lillian Carson: We live a few hours from both sets of grandparents. I'm always inviting them to visit, however we're lucky if they pay us a visit twice a year. Money and time they have lots of. On a few occasions, they have been 5 minutes from our home and still not visited. They know they are welcome. I find this so hurtful. What do you think? --Hurting

Dear Hurting: It is a loss for the whole family. Some grandparents believe in a golden age free of responsibility which keeps them disconnected from their grandchildren. Others are uncomfortable around kids and just don't know what to do with them. Let them know how important they are. How about going to visit them? Try issuing invitations to specific events, i.e. a picnic, cookie making and a tea party, rather than waiting for them to drop by. Keep in contact with calls, notes, pictures etc. If that doesn't work, read on.

Dear Dr. Carson: Since my daughter's grandparents all live out of state, I was really feeling a void in her life by not having regular contact with older people. I contacted a local retirement community to "adopt" a Grandparent. We were fortunate enough to "adopt" an elderly couple. A void has been filled in our lives, since I have no living grandparents. It's wonderful watching my daughter develop a loving relationship with this couple. We visit weekly, bringing small gifts and treats. We send cards, take photos and talk about happy memories, all the things you would do with any grandparent. --Dorinda

Dear Dorinda: Yours is a heart-warming and inspirational example of how to enrich a family with inter-generational relationships. Thank you for sharing.

Dear Dr. Carson: I want my children to have as wonderful a relationship as I had with my own grandmother. Instead, I hear from my mother that my 4 year old little girl is just not as good as my niece who is the same age. Or that my child is too much trouble. To make the situation worse, my mother says these things in front of her. In life, it is sometimes hard not to have favorites. My mother has 3 children and 8 grandchildren but only 2 grandchildren share in her total attention and unconditional love. How do I prove to grandma that her time and love are very special and important to all the grandchildren equally? --Seeking Understanding

Dear Seeking: Trying to prove that you are deserving of a parent's or grandparent's love and attention is fruitless, even though many spend a lifetime in the attempt. You mother may not realize how damaging it is to hold up your niece as a good example. Protect your daughter by explaining that grandma doesn't have patience for active children. Then plan some activities or short outings that may reduce the possibility of conflict between them.

Dr. Carson's Tip:
Include grandparents in your kids school. Encourage the grandchildren to tell grandparents about what they are studying ro what they did today by phone, FAX or letter. And do urge grandparents to volunteer in the classroom. They're needed.

"I have volunteered to read in my grandson Harrison's second grade classroom. It's a highlight of my week and theirs. There's such excitment when I enter the classroom with exclaimations of "Grandma Lilly is here!" I tell them why I chose the book I'm going to read. They are very talkative and respond enthusiastically to the interaction. Their responses are fascinating and the enthusiasm of second graders is contageous!

Do send your questions, stories and thoughts to me.
My e-mail address: Email Dr. L. Carson

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