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Cheryl Saban Ph.D. Headshot

Grandma's in the House

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Very soon, President-elect Barack Obama and his family will move into the White House. They'll take their belongings, their hopes, and their dreams and settle into the esteemed residence of the individual who holds the highest, most powerful, and most difficult office of our land.

0ur new President and his wife have two young children. As a nation, we will watch those girls grow up in the coming years, and their every move will be reported and discussed. Privacy will be difficult to maintain, but based on what I've read, President-elect Obama and his wife Michelle are making every effort to ensure that their daughters retain some sense of normalcy in their lives. That will be a daunting task, but from what I've seen so far, the Obamas are fully committed to accomplishing it.

I read somewhere that Michelle Obama's mother will be moving into the White House too. I hope she does. Having a grandmother in the house could certainly be a stabilizing and nurturing force for those girls. The presence of multi-generational family members can have a positive effect on the entire family unit. Some studies suggest that people are generally happiest when surrounded by family and close friends. Malcolm Gladwell discusses this concept in the beginning of his new book, Outliers: The Story of Success.

Young children definitely benefit from the affection and attention they receive from their aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In the United States, there are about 56 million grandparents - and I am proud to acknowledge that I'm among them. Grandparents have the wisdom of having been there done that in the child-rearing arena, and may be able to help navigate through prickly family skirmishes by virtue of their own hard-won experiences. That's not to say that we grandparents have all the answers - but we have some of them. Most importantly, grandparents have a different perspective on life; they've had wins and losses, learned and taught lessons, and made progress despite life's ups and downs. They've seen a lot in the course of their lives, and we'd be wise to listen to their stories, and honor them for their numerous laps around the sun.

My mom and dad have lived with us for eleven years; their presence here has been a gift of monumental proportions to our children and grandchildren. These years have provided a treasure trove of shared experiences for our entire family. I consider myself very lucky to have my folks here with me.

For the new First Family, having Grandma in the house will be a comfort and source of both strength, and calm - not only for the children, but for the President and First Lady as well. For all the feelings of intimidation such a lofty address could arouse, the presence of Grandma, relatives and close friends in the White House will help create a comfort zone there too. I wish the First Family, with all its extensions, a very safe, loving, and happy New Year.

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