Nothing can replace this feeling.

Do Grandparents Moving Away Affect Children?

by Kathryn Walsh

Grammy's hugs are first-rate, and her double chocolate brownies aren't bad, either. Your toddler or preschooler will likely miss both when her grandparents move away. You know that losing built-in babysitters will make the transition tough for you, but you can't anticipate exactly how your little one will react to the change. Keeping the younger generation connected to the older one will help the whole family bond until you can reunite over a giant pan of brownies again.

Preparing Your Child

First, the good news: telling your toddler or preschooler that her grandparents are moving away probably won't be tough as when you told her that Fluffy wasn't coming home from the vet's office. If her grandparents are a consistent part of her life, she'll be upset when she learns of the change. Once you know that your parents or in-laws are leaving and you know where they're going, bring up the subject while snuggling with your child someplace quiet.Be as honest as possible and focus on the positives. Say something like, "Grandpa got a new job. We're so excited for him! But he has to move to a new city with Grammy. We won't get to see them all the time, but we'll talk to them a lot and sometimes we'll ride an airplane and visit them!"

What to Expect

If her grandparents are little more than a pair of signatures on a Christmas card, your toddler or preschooler might not have much of a reaction to their relocation. If her bond to her grandparents is strong, expect her to struggle a bit before and after their move. She might repeatedly ask the same questions about where they're going, or she might seem sad or throw tantrums, at times. Ask questions to get to the root of her feelings, and offer the reassurance that everything will be okay. Say things like, "It's sad that Grandpa can't take you to the mall on the weekends any more, but I will take you, instead -- if you want." This transition will send her reeling a bit, so strive to keep everything else in her life as stable as possible. Don't make any big changes, like introducing potty training or moving her to a new preschool classroom, until the dust has settled.

Keeping the Connection

A little more screen time won't hurt your kiddo -- at least, not when her long-distance grandparents are on the screen. A child who is missing her grandparents, even a toddler, will be reassured the first time she talks to them after the move. Arrange a video chat through an Internet video call service as soon as her grandparents are able to do this with you. A young child who doesn't understand exactly what "moving away" means will start to understand, once she sees her grandparents' faces, that they didn't go away for good. Set up weekly video chats at the same time each week so your kiddo knows she'll get to talk to Grams and Gramps regularly. You might also buy her stationary and envelopes so she can send cards and drawings to them. Call them on speakerphone every so often, so you can all catch up at the same time.

Meeting Up

When your munchkin is missing Grammy's hugs especially badly, telling her that she'll see Grammy soon might soothe her sorrows. Try to always have the next visit planned, even if it's months ahead, and show your kiddo on a calendar when the next reunion will be. Inviting the grandparents to your home might be easiest for you, but when you make the journey there, consider that your parents or in-laws have probably been living a relaxed, kid-free lifestyle in their new pad. As points out, the place might not be ready for your child right away. Remind them of some safety-proofing basics, like locking up medications, cleaners and weapons, and take a walk through the house armed with outlet covers and cabinet locks once you arrive. And be prepared that your kiddo's sadness might return when the visit ends. Be extra gentle with her and she'll soon return to her happy, worry-free self.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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