Hi, Carolyn: I have begun to get more questions about dating and settling down, because my parents are desperate for grandchildren.

I think it's magnified by some unresolved grief around my younger brother's death recently. I used to be able to brush it off with, "I can knock that out for you right now, I just need some drinking money," or, "I can barely take care of the dogs," but I think my parents see me approaching 30 and think of the opportunity lost with my brother.

I've outright said I don't want children and added a fun joke about global warming. My mother's response was, "Well, if you adopt, they're already here, so they're stuck when the Earth melts anyway."

How do I disengage and discourage this conversation? The constant questioning is making me feel guilty for not giving my parents something they expect from me, and that's tough because "Mom wanted grandkids" is not a reason to bring a child into the world.

— Letting Mom Down Easy

Letting Mom Down Easy: As wrenching as this will be, please talk to your mom without the jokes — good ones, by the way — and deflections. There’s a time for disengaging and discouraging, and in fact it’ll be that time again as soon as you get the hard conversation out of the way. But for this one time, engage fully and unequivocally in the hard conversation.

Such as: “We’re all hurting, Mom. It’s awful. I can’t make it better for us, though, by having a child. I can’t and I won’t, because I do not want to be a parent. And because our family’s grief and my future are separate things. Please respect my decision, even if you don’t like it or understand it, and stop asking me when I’ll have kids.”

If she pushes back, then you’ll need to say it’s not open to discussion or negotiation. Then kindly/calmly/firmly decline to discuss it again.

Quip and repeat.

I’m sorry you have so much pain to navigate right now.

Re: Grandkids: There are LOTS of kids out there who would really benefit from some grandparent style love. Volunteer at a school, church, homeless shelter, become a Big Brother, Big Sister, help out some overworked neighborhood parents. I know it isn't the same, but there are kids you don't have to be responsible for that you can spoil with love. They don't have to pop out of your kids.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: It’s definitely not the same, but it’s also better than badgering one’s child to have children she doesn’t want.

Plus, while in most cases the volunteer interaction will be limited to the short-term, there’s always the possibility of a longer-term connection.

I’m concerned, though, about how to say this inoffensively to a grandchild-desperate person. Or am I linking this too closely in my mind to the radioactive “You can always adopt!”

Re: Volunteering: Don't present it as if it's as good as grandkids, but something like, "You have so much to give, I have a friend who has really loved [tutoring, Big Brothers/ etc.]." A lot of folks don't think they can volunteer at a school if they don't have kids there, for example.

— Not AS Radioactive

Not AS Radioactive: Sounds fair, thanks.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.