Ask Dr. Gramma Karen Offers Advice for Moms and Grandmas

Karen Rancourt is a grandmother and advice columnist who focuses on the thorny issues that come up between young parents and grandparents. She has collected her columns in a new book, Ask Dr. Gramma Karen.

Karen’s book is a “two-fer” — she tackles challenging family situations from both the grandparents’ and the parents’ perspectives. She focuses on the core issue and then offers suggestions for both sides. For example, if a young mom blows up at a grandparent for giving the grandchild an extra dessert, the conflict is not really about a chocolate chip cookie. It’s about the young mom feeling her dad is not respecting her or her parenting rules.

Karen addresses the hurts, disappointments, feelings of rejection and disrespect, and of being misunderstood in the five sections of her book. Each section starts with a letter followed by Karen’s response. She also includes a collection of readers’ comments.

Section Titles

  1. Involvement: The Need for Boundaries
  2. Communication: The Need to Get It Right
  3. Assumptions and Expectations: Avoiding Disappointment
  4. Power and Control: Letting Go of the Need to Win
  5. Values, Beliefs, and Principles: The Need to Consider Accommodation

Karen became interested in the relationships between young parents and their parents and in-laws several years ago while vacationing with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons. She and another grandmother were chatting about how nice it was that three generations could vacation together when a young woman yelled out, “You couldn’t build a house big enough for me to live with my parents or in-laws!”

As a result of that young mom’s negative comment, Karen began researching parent-grandparent relationships to understand why some are solid, loving, and fulfilling while others are uncomfortable, unpleasant and sometimes contentious. Writing an advice column has allowed her to help parents and grandparents build and sustain the family relationships they’d like to have or have and want to maintain.

At the end of section one she offers over a dozen “Do’s and Don’ts for Grandmothers” as well as “Do’s and Don’ts for Young Moms.”

For grandmothers:

“Do not try to impose your values or parenting preferences on your daughter or daughter-in-law. Ask her to tell you about any books she’d like you to read or videos to watch that can help you better understand how she’s trying to raise her children. Your job is to understand her intended parenting and not try to change it.”

For Young Moms:

“If you choose to address an issue in a family meeting with your mom or mother-in-law, it’s suggested that the parent who is the son or daughter take the lead. It’s usually much easier for a grandparent to hear about an issue or concern if it’s initially presented by the son or daughter.”

Karen’s advice column appears in Mommybites, a Manhattan-based national online community for parenting resources, support, and education, co-owned by her daughter Heather.

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