How to Bridge the Generation Gap Between Children and Grandparents
I want my son and daughter (ages 8 and 11) to have a close relationship with my mom and dad (ages 79 and 81), but they can't find anything to talk about. My kids don't get Frank Sinatra, and my parents don't get fidget spinners. Family dinners are over in nine minutes flat. Any ideas?
—Marcia, San Diego
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,
It sounds like you've got a front-row seat to the world's most awkward double date. It's nobody's fault—your parents and children are just not that into each other.
You have two choices: (1) Let everybody fend for themselves while you eat dinner in front of a Brady Bunch rerun. Those people were constantly having heartwarming conversations—even without the grandparents. (2) Grab a pen and strips of paper. Now write a question on each strip: What's your earliest memory? What's the silliest thing you ever saw your mom do? Who was your favorite teacher and why? Most awful vacation disaster? Greatest meal? Thing that scared you most when you were little? If you could be a genius at one thing, what would it be? All-time biggest surprise? The thing you'd most like to do over? Best place you ever visited? Etc., etc. Put the questions in a hat, start passing it and notice how rarely the fidget spinners come out!
My therapist has been excusing himself to use the bathroom midsession. If it happened once or twice, I wouldn't give it too much thought, but it's been a few times. What do you think it means?
—Melissa, Los Angeles
Maybe he can't wait an entire session to call his shrink friends and tell them what you've said. Maybe his kidneys are failing, his prostate is enlarged or his cocaine habit is rearing its ugly head. Perhaps you spend too much time talking about running water. Does Niagara Falls figure heavily in your conversations? Are you, by any chance, an oceanographer? Good lord, the possibilities are endless.
But it doesn't much matter what I think it means. It's what you think it means that counts. To get the most from your therapy, you have to work not to censor your thoughts. When something is on your mind, tell the therapist and see where it leads. Could it be that you're pissed off because someone is constantly interrupting you, or is it possible you feel cheated out of time and attention in your life and his regular interruptions are pressing those same buttons in your session? What happens between the two of you within the confines of therapy may provide valuable insight as to how you behave outside therapy.
Melissa, you've got to remember that it's your session. It's the place where nobody is seeing you through the prism of their own needs. It's the room where you get to say anything and feel everything without fear, guilt, apology or shame. Don't hesitate to speak your mind—just let it flow!
Our friend's son recently graduated and is trying to break into my industry. He's talented and constantly asks me to recommend him to my contacts. But Lisa, he's an awful guy. He trolls strangers on social media, always shows up late and frequently makes his mother cry. What should I do?
—Alice, New Hampshire
My dear Alice in office land,
First, let me say I love the name Alice. I almost gave your name to my daughter, who spent her first morning as Princess Bunnyhead, because when you push for three hours and 19 minutes sans epidural, Princess Bunnyhead is about all you can muster. The point is, the only thing you really have in this world is your good name—you mustn't squander it on anyone unworthy. In the words of former senator Alan Simpson, "If you have integrity, nothing else matters, and if you don't have integrity, nothing else matters."
You need to let your friend know that you're taking a tough-love approach with her son and tell this kid he's not a good match for the people you work with. If he asks why, then do him a favor and be candid: "I know you're very talented, but my colleagues require a certain level of character and kindness that I've yet to see you demonstrate." If he's smart, he'll work to turn that around; if not—well, there's the proof that you did the right thing.