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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Hello Again, I am seeking an answer from a child Pyschologist

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Hello Again,

I am seeking an answer from a child Pyschologist regarding a concern I have about my granddaughter. She is seven and a half and has just started Grade Three.
My husband and I live in an in-law suite in our married daughters home which was built for us by our son-in-law. My husband and I are care providers for both grandchildren: our granddaughter and her younger brother.

Our granddaughter is feeling extreme anxiety about school this year as the curriculum is difficult. She is also experiencing anxiety about social rejection and bullying. My main concern in all of this is the way the parents are treating her. There seem to be very high expectations and on a recent holiday dinner occasion at our home, both my husband and I noticed how our granddaugter was being constantly corrected and criticized by her dad.
Her mother, who also works fulltime, is, in my opinion also being very strict and hard on her. Our granddaughter has expressed to me that she does not feel loved anymore!
I do not believe she is receiving enough unconditional love from her parents.

I know that as the care provider in the parents absence, I can do as much as I can to be loving and supportive of her. And I also know I need to walk a fine line in how much I can say to the parents. I do not want to meddle, however, I can see my granddaughter is suffering and I need some objective advice.

The fact that we all live in the same house, albeit, separate areas does complicate the situation. I am trying very hard to not interfere and to mind my own business, but this is becoming very painful for both my husband and myself. The parents have always been very hard on our granddaughter even though in many respects they are good providers in many other ways.

I would appreciate an answer or some suggestions on what to do about all of this.
Thank You.
I will not be back online until later this evening- around 9 p.m. EST.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question. I have experience evaluating and working with children so I hope it is alright if I answer your question.


Parents who criticize their children often do not realize that criticism is a form of verbal abuse. Parents criticize for a variety of reasons including modeling behavior they learned as a child from their parents, or as a form of control. They may think they are helping their child but in fact they are doing great harm.


Your granddaughter and grandson do not realize at their young age that they are not causing their parents anger towards them. So they internalize the criticism and think it is their fault and that there is something wrong with them. As teenagers, the child(ren) may rebel and act out towards their parents and society as a whole. They feel they need to live up to their parents expectations that they can do nothing right and that they are flawed.


What you are doing already is helpful to your grandchildren. Caring for them and helping them feel loved is important. You may also want to tell your grandchildren that sometimes adults feel things that kids are not responsible for. So while your grandchildren should be encouraged to follow the rules, let them know that how they are spoken to does not mean they are bad.


Also, work on increasing your grandchildrens self esteem. Tell them they are wonderful. Point out good traits they have. Praise them for a job well done or a picture they make. If you can provide love and attention they do not get with their parents, they will know how it feels to be loved and it will help them balance the verbal abuse from their parents.


Also, talk with your daughter again. Tell her that you found out that constantly correcting children with criticism can cause a lot of damage emotionally that has long term consequences. Gently recommend that the family might want to consider counseling. Also, you can show her articles or books that help back up what you say. Present everything as about caring for the children and not criticism of your daughter and her husband as parents. Let them know you are there for them.


Learn what you can about verbal abuse/ emotional abuse of children. The more you know, the better you can help your grandchildren. Here are some resources to help you:


The Words Hurt: Helping Children Cope with Verbal Abuse (Let's Talk) by Chris Loftis and Catharine Gallagher


The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond by XXXXX XXXXX


Safeguarding Children from Emotional Maltreatment: What Works (Safeguarding Children Across Services) by Jane Barlow and Anita Schrader Mcmillan


You can find these books on or your local library may have them for you.

I hope this has helped you,

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for your answer. Please address one more topic for me. My granddaughter is being punished for not eating. There is pressure coming on her all the time about this. Please advise.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Just advice about the eating/punishment part.

This is a situation ripe for causing an eating disorder. Punishing her for not eating still falls into the abuse category, but the consequences in the future could be an eating disorder.


Because of the punishment around eating, your granddaughter is going to start associating her eating preferences with something wrong with her. She will learn that listening to her body and not eating when she is not hungry is wrong. She will then learn it is not ok to trust her own judgment when it comes to responding to her own body's needs. She will also associate shame with eating. This is a root cause of eating disorders.


This also needs addressed with your granddaughter's mother. The parents are setting their children up for future behavioral problems, psychological disorders and possible rebellion. You can still talk with your granddaughter about how she feels. Try allowing her to express her feelings through drawing, play acting and just talking. Also, try to gently push counseling with her mother at least for the children as much as possible. If you feel the situation becomes any worse or you feel nothing helps, you may want to consider asking advice from her pediatrician or even children and youth services. You can ask anonymously. It is not ideal, but it would at least give you some options to protect your grandchildren.



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