Thursday, November 28, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: A Generation Removed But Still Concerned

By Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

My son has two young daughters, ages 8 and 10. He and his wife are very loving parents. However, my husband and I have noticed a strange dynamic in their household. Our younger granddaughter, call her Lily, is quite the charmer and has many friends at school, while our older granddaughter Jessica is more shy and has a difficult time connecting with children her age. Jessica seems jealous of her younger sister and often tries to spend time with Lily and her friends when they are playing at their house.

To add further tension, our daughter-in-law and Jessica have a sometimes uncomfortable relationship because Jessica will lash out at her mother, who will then get angry with her in return. It is a bad situation and our son isn’t trying to cool it down.

As grandparents, we’ve tried not to intervene too much, other than to try and take Jessica out to museums and such when Lily is off at birthday parties. I feel that perhaps Jessica and our daughter-in-law could benefit from some sort of counseling, but my husband says I should keep my opinions to myself. Should I?

Does Grandma Know Best?

Dear Does Grandma Know Best,

If you tell your son, apropos of nothing, that he should look into family counseling, he might become defensive. I don’t blame him. While I’m an advocate for counseling, recommending it sounds like (and often is) a critique of some kind. If you offend him, that will limit your ability to spend time with your granddaughters and have a positive influence on the situation.

And what a situation it is. Envy, frustration, and really all of the elements that make for high drama. My heart goes out to Jessica. Feeling like an odd duck is hard enough, but constantly having a reminder of what you aren’t makes her plight all the more difficult. I can see why she might try and emulate her younger sister.

Your best course of action is to try and help Jessica find an outlet for herself. I love that you’re taking her to museums and out to other activities. Try to see what kind of interests she has, and how she can nurture them into hobbies. That way, she can find her own unique brand of special and a way to feel good about herself. Plus, she could find friends with shared interests.

When you’re with your son’s family and you experience a fraught moment between Jessica and your daughter-in-law, it can be an opportunity to talk to your son about your concerns. Don’t view it as a confrontation. Instead, ask him a lot of questions and see how he reacts. You might get him to come to the conclusion that his family could benefit from some counseling on his own.

All best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or at advice @

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