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Dr. Keane
Dr. Keane, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1767
Experience:  Parenting Workshops, Teacher, PHD Clinical Psychology, 30 yrs. Exp. 4 Children
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My little granddaughter, Jennifer, and I have always been very,very

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My little granddaughter, Jennifer, and I have always been very,very close and she lives about 3 miles away. I have doted on this child and she is my first grandchild. I have spent innumberable hours with this precious child and she has had some rocky times in her little life as her parents are trying to recover from alcoholism. There was a short month period a year ago when they actually lived with me while the parents wnet through rehab to stop drinking. I feel so completely close to this little gal but have noticed some things that have started to sadden me and concern me. Since she started kindergarten this school year and is one of the youngest in the classroom, I have noticed that she is showing lots of signs of low confidence in herself and her abilities. She often says she thinks she is not smart, although, she is very intelligent and creative. Yesterday at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party she kept watching what the other birthday girls were doing while Chuck E. sang the birthday song. She acted as if she didn't know what to do and just did whatever the other 4 or 5 year old did. When we sang happy birthday to her and told her to blow out her candle, she acted like she didn't know what to do because the other girls had already blown out their cake's candles. It seemed very odd to me that she was so into copying their behaviors and she seemed very, very shy with everyone watching her. My question to you comes to a focus because of those and today's events. Today was her 5th birthday and my daughter took in some cupcakes to the class. I was to meet my daughter there at 9 am but when I arrived my daughter had already left the classroom and had dropped off the cupcakes and she called my cell phone te say she'd had to leave. I decided to visit the room anyway and thought that my granddaughter would be very thrilled to show me her classroom, and friends. However, upon my entry into the room, my granddaughter looked very embarrassed to see me there; although she knew I was going to be coming. The teacher had her come greet me and I asked her to show me her cubby and where she sat. She stiffly and embarrassingly showed me but she never smiled or seemed happy that I was there. Because I taught kindergarten and was an educater until my early retirement in June I felt very comfortable in the classroom and I volunteered to stay when the teacher broke into "centers" and the teacher said she'd love my help if I was serious. So I stayed about an hour to help and my granddaughter and I had a chance to converse a bit and I thought everything was fine. There was an incident where a bigger, and a bit bullyish girl took the birthday crown off my granddaughter during free play time and I just happened to notice that my granddaughter was following this big girl around the room trying to retrieve her crown. She was being very timid in trying to retrieve her crown. I saw my granddaughter finally retrieve her crown from this girls head and then this girl ran to the teacher to "tell" that my granddaughter had pulled her hair! I walked over to the bigger girl and said something to the effect that she'd probably get to wear a crown also when it was her birthday but that today the crown was to be worn by Jennifer. Meanwhile, my granddaughter, Jennifer, went and sat down on the rug by herself and just acted very unlike herself and very insecure. After school she told her mother that she was embarrased when I was at her school. And when I saw her after that I spoke to her myself. She said that the bigger girl said "your grandmother's mean!" and Jennifer told me she did not want me to come back to her school again and that she felt embarrassed by me. And she did not interact with me in our normal way - she was very stand offish. I felt very hurt by her comments and I also feel very alarmed about her insecurity in the classroom. It ended badly because I ended up actually crying! I know that sounds so immature, but I have to tell you it hurt my feelings so much. My daughter ended up taking Jennifer home and we did not have our usual hug/kiss goodbyes because I just busied myself in the kitchen when they got ready to leave. What should I have said, how should I have handled this and how can I help my granddaughter feel more secure in herself and who she is so that she doesn't bend with the prevailing wind. Also, what should I do or say to myself to weather my own hurt feelings?
It sounds like she is trying to fit in and isn't quite sure how it works. Painful to watch as a family member, especially since you are a educator. You can help your granddaugher by making a game using role play, don't use school as the setting but the park, a party. Take turns being the antagonist or bully and teach her to stand up for herself. She actually did pretty well getting her crown back but is imtimidated by what was said.Teach her to use her words and let her feelings be known. It's hard to be one of the youngest in the class and I presume she is an only child. Other children may have an advantage if they have siblings since they have to hold their own and stick up for themselves at home.
As for you, the mere fact that she usually doesn't behave like this with you should tell you this is a one time incident and she didn't know how to handle it, so you got the "treatment". It hurts when you have been the one who was there to take care of her while your parents took care of their addictions. Feel the hurt and let it go. You are allowed to cry you know. I am sure this will pass. Tell Jennifer that you did not mean to have her feel any discomfort or embarassment at school and that you won' go there and stay again unless she invites you. Just let her know you love her and that you were crying because you felt badly over the situation, not her personally. Self esteem will come in time, she didn't let someone take her crown and do nothing so that isn't a worry.
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