‘My granddaughter cries so much when saying goodbye’

Grandma: “We see our grandchildren regularly. Every time we say goodbye, our almost four-year-old granddaughter becomes very sad. When she notices that we are breaking up, she often sits with her back to us, like: What I don’t see, doesn’t happen. When we really leave, she starts crying uncontrollably and shouting that she wants to stay with grandparents. She has a very warm bond with her parents, it isn’t. She sometimes says that she would like it best if we all moved into one house. So it’s kind of in her character to want everyone together. Very complimentary to us, but saying goodbye cuts us through the soul. It would be so nice if she was spared that recurring grief.”

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Pack and go

Bass Delivery: “The bond between grandparents and grandchildren has never been closer in history. Even when they are picked up by their own loving parents, they still don’t want to leave.

“The farewell must be well prepared and kept short. The parents can say, “If we come to pick you up this afternoon, we have to leave right away.” At the moment, those involved should not delay, but pack up and go. ‘Until next time!’ Make sure they can’t read from your face that you think it’s pathetic.

“If the goodbyes are stretched, we make it unnecessarily difficult for the children. That’s why waving at the windows, which parents often do when taking their young children to school for the first time, is really unwise. You have to help children to grow up.

“In the long run, saying goodbye will become a festive ritual. We keep waving until we can’t see each other anymore. Waving is a form of holding on to each other for as long as possible. You have to learn to like that.”

Building bridges

Liesbeth Groenhuijsen: “Little children are well aware of how helpless they still are, so they are terrified of being abandoned. That already starts at 8 months: they can’t let go of mother or father, because they can’t hold onto the image of the parents when they are gone. The brains are still too small to be able to think that together.

“That fear of separation remains our deepest fear, you keep being confronted with it. That is why it is so important to learn how to master that fear. Consult with your granddaughter: what can we do so that you don’t get so upset later? You do not solve it for her, but give her the feeling that she can also take a step herself to learn to deal with that fear of separation.

“You can also say: ‘I’ll give you a piece of paper, and as soon as you get home, you can make a drawing and then we’ll have a video call and show me that drawing.’ Those are the bridges to safely practice loss and letting go.

“It is good to see if something has happened that makes your granddaughter’s reaction to goodbye a little more intense at the moment. That can be something small, a teacher who doesn’t come back, a girl next door who moves…”