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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My 11 year old grandaughter is very sad because her mother

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My 11 year old grandaughter is very sad because her mother was put in jail for a probation violation. I do not know how to help her... she lives with me and grandpa along with her siblings (13 yr. old sister; 5 & 9 yr old brothers) The boys do not know and the 13 year old seems to be okay... protective of her sister

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how worrisome this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring grandma and she is so very, very fortunate to have you and her grandpa there. I can't tell you enough what a wonderful thing you are doing for your grandchildren. There are so many adults who I've treated in therapy who referred to their grandmother or grandparents as the people in their childhood lives that kept them going. So good for you.

This must be very hard on you as well and it's wonderful that you are making such efforts for her. What you write are the right things to do: love and hugs, letting her know she's safe and she'll be taken care of (kids are very self-worried), keeping an eye on her, having people talking with her, getting her father involved. Those are all the right things.

One important thing to add is to have something from her mother that she can keep with her in her bedroom and in her backpack during the day when she goes places (if she wants), like a blouse or a handkerchief. Her mom can then refer to it daily in their phone calls. So, for example, mom can tell her that when she goes to bed tonight, she can give a special hug to Mom's handkerchief and know that Mom is thinking of her as well and looking forward to being back together. This is an object constancy took that can help a lot.

Another tool is to have her mom suggest "joy moments" for her to have during the day. Let's say at first two joy moments. These are moments where her mom wants her to smile at people and do something nice for someone in honor of mom and to help mom feel better until mom gets back. This is training in having her do good for others and making others feel better as a way to feel better herself. A joy moment works best if Mom chooses specific times when they can both have a joy moment around the same time. Then, the next day they can share the joy moment with each other. Example: mom can say something nice to someone else in jail or write a letter to one of the other kids or to her or to you, etc. And your granddaughter can do something for someone that same time. This a connecting activity that can be very, very effective.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
You have helped a lot.. Any suggestions as to how to tell the boys know? We keep saying mama is with friends
This is an important question you're asking. I was hesitant whether to bring up the boys after I read they didn't yet know. I was concerned because they're going to find out and it's best to do it in a planned way. So I'm glad you brought it up.


If your granddaughter is mature enough even though she's broken up about her mama to make this one of her things she does for others to help mama, then having her participate in the telling or the making them feel better afterwards would be useful.



There are two parts to telling them. One is to keep them trusting you. That means explaining why they were told she was with friends when that will clearly have been not true. So don't evade that part. It's important they keep trusting all of you. Explain that you were hoping this would have ended sooner and she would have been back but that you know they need to know now that you see she'll be away for a while. Something to that effect. But make sure they are satisfied that they weren't lied to or dismissed in some way. This can happen.


Then there's the big part: having them understand that mama is away. You don't know what support they'll need, so focus on the things you've been doing with your granddaughter: that they will be safe, that mama is safe, that she'll be coming back, that you all will be there for them, etc. And then see what questions they have. Don't assume they will have certain problems, because they may not and it can be confusing to them if you're trying to address feelings and worries they may not have. Rather, let them ask you lots of questions after you've made their basic self-referenced needs I mention above clearly resolved for them, okay?


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Okay...they are part of a great group ---participate in sports-- honor roll students--after school enrichment,etc...how do we handle other parents? They know kids live with us with mom...I don't want to jeopardize kid's relationships
That will be tougher. I don't know your relationships with these other parents. Most often, it's not close and then you just have to hope for the best. Because you can't control people's talking or reactions.


But if there are some parents in the group that you are close enough to that you could invite to a "social tea" with and be up front about the situation, that would be the best. You always have a better chance to have people on your side when you share your situation than when they hear it second/third hand.


Then you can ask them to relate the information to the parents they're close with that weren't there at the social event. This way the "chain" of talking about this will be flowing more sympathetically.


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

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