Big Questions:I visit my grandson who is 3, for a week, 4 times a year. He is my little shadow, which is fine, but, his parents get annoyed that he cries when I'm out of sight. How can I fix this?
Yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder… for sure!
Children your grandson's age do not have a solid understanding of time, so a calendar for him to keep track of when you are coming and going may not solve the problem, but it will plant the seeds of what to expect, which is helpful to all children, even one so young as him. Sometimes a child is extra clingy when they aren’t sure about a parent or grandparent’s comings and goings, so the visual cues of a calendar may help.
I have a two and a half-year-old granddaughter who does not live in my city, and we have found that frequent FaceTime sessions totally reinforce our bond. I also try to send her something in the mail once in a while. Nothing expensive or extravagant, just stickers, little stones or ribbons that I have collected for her.
There is a wonderful book that I would recommend for you and your grandson called The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, about a little raccoon named Chester who doesn’t want to go to school… not the same scenario… however, the story sends the message that we can feel the love of another even when we are apart.
I know a family that has printed out photos (they actually laminated the pics for lots of use by their toddler) of relatives that live far away. They keep them in a special basket that their child loves to pull off the shelf and line up and talk about. Visual reminders of our loved ones go a long way with young children.
Finally, I would try to acknowledge to your grandson’s parents - in a completely non-judgmental way - that these visits can be hard on all of you. Then, ask them if they have any suggestions for how to support him … and them. Sometimes, naming a problem is half the battle and asking those affected can help foster a team effort in solving it. There is always the possibility that his tears for you are making them feel insecure, and that is not something that you want to be reinforced.
Communication, though not always easy, may make a difference in helping to minimize the separation anxiety that your grandson is experiencing.