Ask GaGa

Donne Davis

Grandmas, what are your biggest problems and challenges?

Send me your questions and I’ll answer them here on “Ask GaGa.”

Your identity will be kept confidential.

See below for previously submitted problems and challenges.


Examples of some questions …….


Grandma Worried Grandson Is Undernourished

Dear GaGa

I am a grandmother to my 4-year-old grandson and I am worried that his mother is negligent in feeding him. She only feeds him once every 24 hours.

I am aware that a 4-year-old’s nutrition needs are at least 1200 – 1400 calories per day. When I have him for a whole day, he gets his breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between.

He just started a full day of pre-school this year and while he is served a breakfast, lunch and 2 snacks during the 7-hour day, his teachers have told us that he does not eat any of this food. He has always been a picky eater so when I find something he likes, he eats it with gusto, (when I am babysitting him.) His Mom thinks if we do not feed him until the supposed dinner hour of 5 pm, then he will want to eat the food at school. However, if she only feeds him at 5 pm every day, then he only eats once every 24 hours, which I feel is negligent.

I am worried sick for the sake of my grandchild.

Worried Sick Grandma

Dear Worried Sick Grandma

I can understand your concern for your grandson’s nutritional needs. But you need to step back and look at the big picture. Is your grandson healthy? Is his weight normal for his age? Does he engage in activities at his pre-school? If the answer is yes, to all these questions, then your grandson is most likely getting the nutrients he needs each day.

Feeding a picky eater can be one of the most stressful parts of parenting. According to Katie Serbinski, a Registered Dietitian, and mom to three toddlers, handling picky eaters is a common challenge in the parent-child relationship. Parents want their children to eat a variety a foods for good reason: it will hopefully lead to nutritious eating habits for them and stress-free cooking for the parent.

Begin by having a conversation with your grandson’s mother to understand her strategies for getting him to eat. Be curious not judgmental. Try to understand her goal and ask how you can support her when your grandson is with you. Do not use the word “negligent” to describe her strategy and don’t suggest that your grandson may be “undernourished.”

Yes, you want your grandchild to eat well, but wisdom says tread lightly when it comes to discussing food issues with the parents. Today’s parents have some new theories about getting kids to eat, especially if they’re picky eaters. Registered Dietitian Katie Serbinski offers advice for handling picky eaters.

7 tips for handling picky eaters

  1. Be patient. It often takes up to a dozen times for a child to accept new foods. Even if your child refuses a “bite,” encourage your child to touch and smell the new food. Talk about the color and shape, not whether it tastes “so good!” And don’t label the child picky, at least not in front of him.
  2. Avoid sweet rewards. Try to limit offering a reward or praise for your child to try the new food. We want children to choose foods because they like the taste and they are hungry. Not because they are going to be rewarded with ice cream after dinner if they eat their broccoli.
  3. Serve with the familiar. Children are more likely to try a new food if it’s served with something they already enjoy eating. For instance, if your child loves pizza, make a build-your-own pizza bar with extra vegetable toppings for them to choose from.
  4. Get the family involved. Take your children to the grocery store [when you aren’t pressed for time] and get them involved in the picking and choosing of different foods. When you get home, have them help you prepare a new recipe or food — better yet, have them help you name or create a whole new recipe from scratch!
  5. Eat it together. The best way to teach your child to enjoy healthy foods is to enjoy them yourself. Practice what you preach.
  6. Serve it their way. If your child doesn’t like their food touching, serve new foods on a plate that has sections or compartments. If your child likes dips, such as ranch or BBQ sauce, serve it alongside the new food even if you think it’s a weird combination. Or swap out the ranch for hummus or bean spreads.
  7. Respect their appetite. If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack because it’s mealtime for everyone else in the family. While it’s important to stick to a mealtime routine [meals and snacks at the same time everyday], sometimes children aren’t THAT hungry. However, this doesn’t give them a pass for leaving the table while everyone else eats.

Here are a few more ideas when your grandson is at your house. You state that your grandson is a picky eater and you feed him what he likes at your house. Instead of always feeding him what he likes, try introducing him to new foods by offering him tiny portions of new foods in a fun way. It can often take up to a dozen times for a child to accept new foods. Take a small child’s plate and make a face using 2 peas for eyes, a slice of banana for a nose and a carrot stick for a mouth. Then have him pretend he’s going to eat the face one part at a time. It may take several tries before he’ll eat them but keep trying. Encourage him to create his own food art with some ingredients that you provide.

Grandma Has High Expectations for New Grandson

Dear GaGa:
I am a first-time grandma and had such high expectations for bonding with my new grandson. My son and daughter-in-law live only a few miles away and yet, they might as well live on the other side of the country for as little as I see him.

Before the baby was born, I told my son and daughter-in-law I’d like to babysit every Thursday at my house and take him for swim lessons when he gets older. They never responded to my offer.

I should have had a clue when the baby was born. My husband and I waited at the hospital eager to meet our new grandson but we were told to come back the next day so the new parents could bond alone with their baby.

In the six months since he was born, I’ve only seen him once a week at a restaurant and my son and daughter-in-law have not accepted my invitations to come to my home for a visit.

I’m heartbroken and confused by the parents’ distancing behavior. Recently, I found out that the nanny is taking my grandson to a baby gym class. I asked if I could go along with the nanny to the class. My daughter-in-law said no.

This behavior is so hurtful I don’t know what to do.

— Feeling Like a Long-Distance Grandma

Dear Long-Distance Grandma

I can understand your disappointment, living so close and yet feeling so shut out.

Right now you are going to have to use every ounce of patience you can muster and not push the couple for requests. It takes tremendous inner strength to step back and let the parents adjust to their new roles. I think older first-time parents are often more set in their ways, more overly protective, and have more resources available to them, for example, financial, online information and a network of friends.

I suggest that when you do get together, look for any openings to talk about what it’s like for them as new parents. Instead of advising your son to hold the baby more and giving unsolicited advice (the big NO-NO), ask him how he feels about being a dad. What’s the best part? What’s the hardest part? What do you wish you had more of? Then, just listen.

Empathize and compliment whenever you see the new parents doing something well and be specific. Make them feel good about their parenting and show them you have confidence in them. And try to count your blessings that you do get to see your grandson every week. Sometimes it can take a year for them to feel comfortable sharing the baby.

Lonely Woman Wants to Be a Grandma

Dear GaGa:
I am a 61-year-old woman who has never been married nor had any children. But in the last few years, I have very much wanted to have a family and feel I have missed out on a lot by not having a family of my own. I just wasn’t ready for that when I was able to have children.

Now my immediate family consists of my 95-year-old father and myself. I don’t want to face the future alone. I also have had a lot of maternal feelings stirring and would very much like to be a grandmother or auntie. I live in a small town and opportunities to meet families for me aren’t that great.

Can you suggest a website where I can find a surrogate grandchild?

— Lonely Grandma-at-heart

Dear Lonely
Every week I get emails from women who would love to be surrogate grandmas as well as moms who would love to find surrogate grandparents for their children. These women write to me because I’ve written several posts about surrogate grandparenting over the years.

Because of those posts there seems to be an assumption that I will help them find surrogate grandchildren or grandparents. Unfortunately, the GaGa Sisterhood does not pair up families with surrogate grandparents.

Whenever I receive these emails, I forward them to Donna Supitilov Skora, founder of Surrogate Grandparents – USA. Donna founded this Facebook group several years ago and has slowly been building and updating a list of potential grandparents and families who would like to find each other.

On her Facebook page she explains that Surrogate Grandparents – USA is a forum where like-minded people have the opportunity to find and meet each other. This list is provided as a courtesy to the members, who have requested to be added, in order to make it easier for the members to find one another.

I wish you luck in your search for a surrogate grandchild. I understand how important it is to love a grandchild and for that child to receive the love that only a grandma can give.


Some Kudos We've Received

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