My Daughters are Creeped Out by Grandma’s Dating Talk

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Reader’s Question

My mother is three times divorced and currently in her seventies. She spends most of her time going to dances and pursuing ‘boyfriends’. She has never had much to do with children or grandchildren over the years.

Now that I have teenaged daughters, she contacts them via e-mail and Facebook to talk about dating — her recent boyfriends, their recent boyfriends. My daughters are understandably ‘creeped out’. I know that people carry developmental fixations into adulthood. Is this one of them?

— Creeped out Dad

Psychologist’s Reply

Whatever is going on for your mother, the task at hand is to set boundaries around your daughters for their well-being. If there are parts of your mother’s life that you want to shield from your daughters, then there must be a way that you can communicate that to her. Consider telling her that you welcome her involvement with your daughters, but some topics are taboo. Let her know politely but firmly that you are responsible for your daughters and she must respect your rules regarding their welfare. Within those limits, she can be with them and converse with them as she chooses.

How do you talk to your daughters about this? Since they’ve already received comments from their grandmother about dating, take the opportunity to discuss the issues with them directly. Be prepared to answer their questions about dating and your mother directly. Depending on their level of development and your tolerance for touchy subjects, volunteer only enough information to answer their specific questions. If you don’t understand what is behind their questions or feelings, ask them. Let them tell you what exactly creeps them out. The things that are upsetting to you may not be the same for them. Listening to them will likely be more important than lecturing to them, or even telling them stories. They will remember that you cared for them during this difficult time, that you were interested and available, and they can come to rely on that in the future if they feel compromised or intruded upon again.

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