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Ask Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW Your Own Qu...
Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW
Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW, Social Worker
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 46
Experience:  Evidence-based therapeutic support. Cognitive behavioral strategies. Pre/postpartum expertise.
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My granddaughter is 5 years old. Her mother and father are

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My granddaughter is 5 years old. Her mother and father are not together but do have a very good working relationship and share custody, 40/60. Additionally, she spends time, up to a week, with my husband and myself. When ever she goes from one parent to the other, or leaves us to go home, she cries and is distraught, clutching and calling for whichever adult she is leaving. I don't know if this is true anxiety separation or something else. When she is with us, she may frequently get sad, reflective and say, "I miss my mommy/daddy". I'm concerned. We try to deal rationally with this saying, "Oh, we'll see you in 2 days", or "In two days you'll be going home". It's very stressful and I would like some pointers. Thank you.

Hello:

 

You are doing all the right things!

 

Thank goodness she has the stability of grandma/grandpa during this very stressful time.

 

Her behavior for her age is completely appropriate..She is experiencing adjustment issues (as are everyone in the family!) This will improve as she becomes accustomed to the routine.

 

I would go to the store with her, buy a colourful, fun calendar, and help her mark the days she is with mommy, daddy, and you. She may appreciate being able to see when she is moving.

 

At each home she stays/visits, have an assortment of her favourite books, clothes, toys etc. so she feels comfortable when she moves in: she feels like she's "home".

 

Have pictures of mommy and daddy at your house visable (on the fridge etc) and pictures of you and grandpa also visable at her mom or dad's place.

 

Allow her to phone mom/dad each night at bedtime if possible, or teach her to type out an email. She'll get the hang of it!

 

Last but not least, validate her feelings. It's normal to miss mommy and daddy. It's okay to be upset about the situation. Reassure her that none of this is her fault, or had anything to do with her behavior/personality etc. Kids often feel they are the cause of the breakup.

 

If none of this works after a few weeks, suggest to mom and dad that they do a bit of short-term family counselling in a children's mental health centre to address her adjustment needs. It will pay off in the long term.

 

I hope this has been helpful.

 

Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW

Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I like your suggestion of having a calendar. Since she can't read email won't work. But she does understand how the calendar works so I will give this a try. She has her own room with Mom, a "space" at Dad's where her things are kept and also a space at our house. We also have her own dishes, a toothbrush, play clothes, toys, etc. at our home that are kept here in an effort to make it more like home. We've even had some discussion with her to the effect that, "gee, most kids only have one house, but you are so lucky you have three!" stuff like that, trying to play up the positive side. This has been going on for several years and we all tried not to focus on it too much, hoping that she would grow out of it. I'm concerned since she will be starting all-day kindergarten this year. Thanks again.

Hi:

 

Her age will be a help. Soon she will start to move away from her sole focus on family, and be more interested in peers. I hope she can stay in the same school for awhile, and build some stability there. Have her school friends over for play dates at mom's, dad's and your house - then she will have a sense of continuity. Also, have everyone be responsible for taking her to classes (swimming, ballet etc) when she starts these things. She will begin to get a sense of "this is my life" and all these adults help me with it."

 

Best wishes.

Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thanks for your help, Mary Lynn. I guess it was Grandma who needed some reassurance. This is not something I experienced with my children and I find it rather heartbreaking and upsetting. Your comments reminded me of how children go through phases. Just about the time you're ready to pull your hair out, they are on to a new one. Have a great day!

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