Almost every Dear Family Whisperer question I answer hits close to home, because I live and deal with many of the same issues. However, this week’s, “Overcoming Four Difficult Truths About Your Grandchild’s Parents,” was one of my most challenging to answer. In varying degrees–many less blatant–I’ve heard similar stories from other grandparents. More importantly, I’ve experienced the generational divide myself. I have and continue to inhabit many family roles: daughter, sister, niece, wife, mother, aunt, partner–and, most recently, grandmother, which might be the most challenging of all!
The woman who posed the question had no trouble switching chairs at the generational table–a process that happens when mom becomes grandma. She loves the new role, delights in the time with her granddaughter, but finds that her son is not only taking her for granted, he’s being unkind and dismissive. What can she do?
The key for her and all of us is authenticity, which is an essential part of “getting REAL”–an essential aspect of family whispering. Along with responsibility, empathy, and leading with love, being “authentic”–speaking your truth and listening to another’s–helps strengthen all your relationships, not just those in the family. To quote from Family Whispering (the book):
One of Tracy’s favorite bits of advice was: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” She wasn’t just talking about sticking to your word, although that’s a part of authenticity. You also must speak your truth to others, and live by your values no matter what others do or say. It takes courage, practice, and honesty. Authenticity is not something that can be achieved perfectly or all the time. But it’s certainly something to strive for in your family.
Being authentic is a challenge, especially for women–“good girls–who like to “keep peace.” (Count my daughter and I among them!) But the pay off is huge. Authenticity is linked to better relationships, high positive emotions, and low negative emotions. A team of researchers in England found it to be “one of the strongest predictors of overall well-being.”
I try to ask myself every day whether I’m being authentic. When asked how I feel, do I mindlessly say “fine”? When someone asks my opinion, am I honest? Do I live the values I believe in, or do I let others sway my opinion. It’s an ongoing struggle, but by focusing on the little things, I build up my authenticity “muscle,” which I need when it comes to those more difficult moments.
To where you stand and learn more about how authenticity works, take the Authenticity Quiz
In my weekly Huffington Post advice column, “Dear Family Whisperer,” I apply “family think” to a range of modern family issues. Whenever an issue touches me personally, or I have further thoughts about it, I’ll post my reflections here. If you want to submit a question, email DearFamilyWhisperer@familywhispering.com.