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Parents Disagree That Grandson
Needs Speech Therapy

QUESTION: My grandson will be three in April, and he has problems pronouncing certain letter sounds. He is very intelligent otherwise, and is far beyond many children in his preschool class. He becomes very frustrated when he's trying to communicate with us, as we can't always understand him. His parents don't want to accept the fact that he possibly needs speech therapy. They say it's too early and that his speech will improve as he gets older. I am an educator and know that something needs to be done right now. How do I convince them?

ANSWER: The good news is that your grandson is very intelligent and has a grandmother who is an educator to boot! Clearly you are a resource for him. The bad news is that this is a delicate situation for you and your grandchild's parents, who may not want to hurt your feelings by disagreeing with your point of view at this time. This is an area in which you must tread carefully in order to get your points across for consideration, but without condemnation. You must also respect the pace and manner in which the parents approach the situation. Parents can be sensitive to criticism when taking a different route from any professional opinion, especially a professional who is also a grandmother!

It appears that your grandson's parents are not denying a problem, but are choosing a path of less intervention at this time. Choosing a "wait-and-see" approach is not necessarily ignoring the problem, but rather involves watching to see what will emerge. Consider their responses to you. Statements such as "It is too early" and "His speech will improve as he gets older" are not statements of denial, but of observation. Consider, too, that it is likely that your grandson's parents receive feedback from his preschool teacher and others who have contact with him. No doubt they are aware of his frustration and are monitoring the situation.

Certainly you should share your knowledge with them. If you know of different approaches to this situation, by all means let them know other views, but be careful not to introduce your ideas in an authoritarian manner. Allow your voice to be heard, but acknowledge other opinions, too. Unnecessary pressure on them to "see it your way" or the "do the right thing" could alienate them, rather than support your grandson's learning process. If you approach them with an attitude of respect for their parenting, keeping in your heart the belief that they are addressing rather than ignoring the problem, you will likely get a warmer reception for your ideas. But do not expect them to jump on the bandwagon!

Give your grandson's parents the benefit of the doubt. Do not take an attitude of trying to convince them. This already creates a challenge to their authority and competence as parents. No doubt you can recall your experiences as a young mother, and the sensitivity to criticism that parents often experience when in the midst of a decision about the best interests of their young child. They need your support to make their own decisions. Avoid adopting a superior position. Instead, join their team. Congratulate them on their careful and thoughtful approach. And consider their views, too. Offer your beliefs on the advantages of addressing speech therapy earlier rather than later. But leave it at that!

Your role as a grandparent is to offer suggestions, not to make decisions. I know how frustrating this can be, believe me! And sometimes we grandmothers are rewarded by parents who decide later that our advice was valuable after all.

Being a grandparent can sometimes feel like a ride on a roller coaster. Now and then, we need to learn how to let go and just enjoy the ride!

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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