How to prepare toddler for grandparents move?
June 11, 2019 10:45 AM   Subscribe

What's the best approach to adjusting toddler to Grandparent's moving out of state?

My parents just let me know that they will be moving 8 hours north, and I'm not sure how to handle breaking the news and adjusting my daughter to their move...any advice on how to best prepare her?

I have a four year old little girl who has grown very attached to her grandparents who she sees almost daily. I have full custody of my daughter, so my parents have helped me a lot in child care and if I ever need to take a night off. I work a normal M-F 7-5 job, so when she is not in daycare she is in the care of my mother. Their attachment and bond is very strong, so strong that she notices and asks for them if they don't see each other for a while. It's a special bond they have. My daughter will be in full time kindergarten in one year but my parents just informed me they will be moving 8 hours away.

My heart is kind of breaking having to explain this to my daughter, and how she is going to adjust to this. I know kids are resilient and if I don't make it an issue, then it won't be, but I know she is going to deeply miss them. And, I will too. They have been our life line and support. And really the only support I have, as most of my family lives in NY. I am not willing to move also as they type of career I have is very limited in that area and I am the sole income provider for us.

Her father is barely present in her life. He sees her a couple times a week when he is available, and does not have her overnights. I could encourage him to be more present, reliable and stable for her but I'm not sure how much you can force someone to be a good parent. I'm scared and it breaks my heart that I'll have to explain this in a way for a toddler mind to understand, and of course part of me is more sensitive as I feel she already has a struggle with not having her father around. I'm the only real stable person in her life at this point and I'm sick at the thought of not having the family support for her and I. How should I start to prepare her, casually mention it slowly, reduce the amount of times they see each other?

I should note that I had a hard time with it initially because I felt like she had a stronger bond to grandma/grandpa because of me working but I realize that it is a good thing, and that it's no reflection on our mother/daughter bond. She's amazing, and I just don't want her to ever feel that people just keep leaving.
posted by MamaBee223 to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My babysitter (a neighbour, not a family member) moved to another province when I was 7 and I was devastated. I think I cried for months. 2 years later, I went on a plane by myself to visit her for two weeks. I think you're right to be worried about this. I have two suggestions, 1 crazy, 1 only a partial-relief.

1. Could you move, too? That's the crazy one, obviously. And there are lots of reasons it might not work, but I"m just throwing it out there.

2. Have you seen these new things facebook is advertising. It's basically a tablet on a stand for video calling and it follows you around and re-focuses/zooms in out, etc. etc. so you can watch other / "be together." I realize there are a million and one reasons not to give FB video access to your home, but if it will help your daughter cope, maybe it's worth it.

I don't think there's any way for this not to be hard. Could you maybe go out to visit immediately after they move, with your daughter charged with seeing their new place/helping them settle in, etc. etc.? Then she can leave them there (knowing she'll be back to visit), rather than them leaving her.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:05 AM on June 11

Our child's grandparents moved from 10 blocks away to Europe, so I feel you. How possible are visits in either direction, especially if people fly instead of drive? If you can maintain visits a few times a year, that will really help. In between, do video calls. You can start these now, to get everyone used to it.

The other work I put in to help my child maintain these relationships is that I keep a private family-only blog where I post pictures of daily life. These posts really help keep the connection going, because then grandparents can chat with the child about what they saw. (E.g. "I saw you made cookies yesterday!" "I like your new green shirt," "I saw that you have a tomato growing!") If there's no contact between calls, all these little connections are lost.

You can play games over videochat like checkers, draw and color, cook the same food, etc. It takes a lot of effort but it does maintain the closeness.
posted by xo at 11:15 AM on June 11

Start building your local support network ASAP. Like, yesterday. Find like-minded parents at your daughter's daycare and organize playdates. Meet your neighbors, especially those with kids. Find a good babysitter and a backup or two.

Yeah, of course, keep working on the relationship with the grandparents, but try to show your daughter that there are other wonderful people who are also a part of your lives.
posted by gakiko at 11:29 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]

I see you mentioning preemptively reducing their visits -- please don't do that! They might as well maximize the time they have living close by.

Facetime is a wonderful tool, as are the little daily blogs/private photosharing sites (I like TinyBeans) as xo mentions. Particularly helpful for the grownups, because then they can have a real conversation with the kid instead of asking "So, how are you? (good.) What have you been doing? (nothing/I don't remember.)"

Can she get a special lovey that is from her Grandma? Can you make a photo book of memories? Can they become pen-pals?

And of course visits when possible.
posted by Bebo at 11:50 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

We have one set of grandparents close and one far away. We use the shared photo albums on our i-devices, lots of facetiming, and lots of visiting. For some reason talking on the phone was really hard for my kids - even facetiming - until they were about six. Texting has been a wonderful thing for our older daughter (I think she started texting when she was seven - only to her grandparents and a select few other adults), and so has email (which they have through kidmail - so I see everything that goes in and comes out).

We also just kind of talk a lot about the grandparents and other absent family members. We have photos of them around, and we made a book with lots of their pictures.

This is so hard, for you and for her. I can't imagine. Hang in there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:11 PM on June 11

It's unclear when your parents are moving, but don't tell your daughter until a few weeks before they go. Phrase it as positively as possible -- that you know she's sad and you're sad too, but you'll be able to visit and here are the exciting things about that. Talk to your local kids librarian about age-appropriate books to read too.

But start Facetiming/Whatsapping every day NOW so that in the future, they can keep in daily contact in a way that seems normal and will be reassuring to your daughter.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:33 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

FaceTime (or the video chat program of your choice) is great - my parents have been reading picture books to my daughter regularly via FaceTime since she was maybe a year old, and she still loves it at age three. As she’s gotten older she talk to them more and more, shows them her toys, etc instead of just listening to stories. They’re across the country and she sees them maybe 4-5x a year; we visit twice a year and they visit us 2-3x a year. She has a really strong relationship with them despite the distance and the infrequent physical contact.

This is going to be a difficult change, but she will absolutely be able to maintain a strong relationship with them. Would it be possible for them to come visit you or you to visit them 2-3 weeks or so after they move? That way when they move, you can talk about the upcoming visit and count down the days together.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:46 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I haven’t gotten to the toddler stage yet, but all three sets of my baby‘s grandparents live far away and have different approaches to being present. My husband’s parents video call nearly every night for five minutes and sing songs to him, ask him and us how the day went. It’s really sweet.

Losing your parental support system can cause a lot of feelings that can be difficult to deal with. Do you have a therapist or a few good friends you can process this with? I find I can be a better parent when I’m able to step back and take care of my own feelings a little. It makes everything more bearable.

I hope you’re doing okay and I’m sending good thoughts to you and your family.
posted by Concordia at 8:44 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

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