Robert De Niro On Being a Parent & Grandfather: 'It's Important For Them to Find Their Own Lane'

The Irishman star and dad to six kids shares his parenting advice

As a father to six kids and a grandfather to four, Robert De Niro says the best parenting advice he can offer is to tell your kids to reach for the stars.

“For my kids, I tell them, ‘If you want to be an actor or you want to do this or that, that’s fine as long as you’re happy. Just don’t sell yourself short.’ That’s the most I would say — push yourself a little more and reach for what you really think it is you want to do. Don’t be afraid,” says De Niro in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “It’s important for them to find their own lane.”

The two-time Oscar winner, 76, is currently getting rave reviews for his starring role in The Irishman as well as his role as a talk show host in Joker.

On Jan. 19, he will receive the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, presented by his two-time costar Leonardo DiCaprio, 45. “When people in your own profession recognize you in this way, it’s an honor,” he says.

  • For more on Robert De Niro, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
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De Niro, who is dad to six kids — Drena, 52, and Raphael, 43, with his first wife, Diahnne Abbott; twin sons Julian and Aaron, 24, with his former girlfriend, model Toukie Smith; and Elliot, 21, and Helen, 8, with his estranged wife, Grace Hightower — says becoming a father changed how he saw the world.

“When you become a parent, there are certain things that you become more aware of, more sensitive about,” he says.

He adds that watching his own parents, artists Virginia and Robert De Niro Sr., helped nurture his own creativity.

“It’s not like my family sat around the table and talked about art, but they led by example. Expression through music, movies, acting, dance, whatever — those are expressions that people need to connect to,” says De Niro, who co-founded New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 after the Sept. 11 attacks. “Whether it’s going to museums, theaters, movies, TV, whatever. We need that. It’s part of our culture, part of our society. It’s essential that it’s there.”

Watch People, Entertainment Weekly & TNT Red Carpet Live: 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday,
Jan. 19, starting at 5:30 p.m. ET/ 2:30 p.m. PT on Stay tuned for the annual SAG Awards, airing
on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.

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