Handling Grandmas' Grandparenting Insecurities

Jan Faull, MEd, on helping grandparents feel connected to their grandkids.

Presence (Not Pictures) Counts

Q. Our 15-month old daughter's grandmothers are having interesting issues. One obsesses over whether our daughter "knows" her. The other makes comments like "Oh, she doesn't like me," if our daughter starts fussing when she approaches her.

I am so tired of having to defend my daughter ("Oh, she's just tired/hungry/bored etc." or "Oh, that's silly, don't be ridiculous"), and I feel for my daughter because she's not trying to insult her grandmothers. As I work from home two days a week, I have offered both grandmothers the opportunity to come over during the day (separately) or after I get done working (late afternoon) to play with their granddaughter. So far, neither has taken me up on it. They are both retired, one lives about 10 miles away, the other just under 20.

Do you think it would help my daughter in feeling more comfortable with her grandmothers if I put a picture of both of them in her bedroom and she looked at them each day, with us telling her that these are her grandmas? I don't know what else to do.

A. The only way for your child to know her grandmothers is for them to spend time with her. The only way the grandmas can be assured that their granddaughter likes them is for them to set their insecurities aside and play with her, feed her, and change her diapers.

Of course your child likes her grandmothers -- what's there not to like? No doubt they are sweet, responsive ladies. The responsibility in the building of their respective relationships, however, lies with them, not your daughter. She's a fickle toddler, loving and cuddly one minute, defiant and unapproachable the next. She's not trying to insult these grandmas, she's just being her toddler self with an agenda that has nothing to do with knowing or not knowing people or liking or not liking them.

If the grandmas were mean or erratic when visiting, then your child would cling to you for protection. This situation is unlikely the case.

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