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Saying Goodbye

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Dear Elizabeth,
I have a 5-year-old granddaughter who will be moving at the end of the month. She’s worried about leaving us. How can I help make this time of change easier for her?
Karl Morris
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
Host
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings
  • Help your child plan ways to keep in touch
  • Allow time & space for grieving
  • The ways you cope with loss provides a model for your child
Expert Advice
Monica Shahbaznia Alvarez
Monica Shahbaznia Alvarez
Clinical psychologist
How It Affects a Child
The personality of the child coupled with how the child is told of the change, can certainly make a significant impact on how the child reacts to the situation. While sudden loss can traumatize a child, gradual explanation in an age-appropriate manner that gives a child a sense of control and diminishes the child’s sense of helplessness can be quite effective.

Very young children are normally told what to do and so they have an understanding that they are “too little” to have a say in major decisions. In these situations, they may feel that they have no control.

It is important to prevent the perception of abandonment. Adults should try to explain that the change or loss is not their fault. For instance, you can say, “Grandpa is moving because he found a great new home and I bet you are going to love visiting him there. He is going to miss you very much”.

Helping a Child to Cope
Choose the best approach to fit your child’s personality, level of understanding, and ability to communicate feelings. Talk about all the different feelings your child may be having. You can explain feelings by using expression cards – faces with expressions drawn on them.

Reassure your child by saying, “I know you feel sad and mad. It’s okay to feel sad and mad. I feel like that too sometimes. But if you feel scared, I want you to know that you are safe and we are all safe too.” This also is a great time to give lots of hugs. Help your child plan ways to keep in touch. Remember to allow time and space for grieving. Finally remember that the way in which you cope with loss provides a model for your child.

Children look to adults’ reactions to adverse situations as a way to regulate their own reactions. A dismissive attitude – such as “Oh, it’s not a big deal! Stop crying.” – can make the child believe that his feelings don’t matter. This can create a disconnection between the child and the adult. The child may begin to close off communication because he or she does not receive any empathy.

Use a compassionate and validating attitude that allows the child to explore his feelings and talk and learn about them. For instance, you could say, “I know you must be sad. I would be sad too, but I know you are really going to like visiting Grandpa in his new house.” A positive and empathetic attitude paves the road for open communication and a good relationship.
Child Care Provider Comments
Joanna Velarde
Joanna Velarde
Mother of two
For the first two years or so of my son’s life, we lived with my parents. It was the only home he ever knew. When we decided to move it was extremely hard for him. He had a hard time getting to sleep and cried a lot. We made sure to try to talk to him about how he was feeling and told him that he would still get to see his grandparents.

We have a weekly tradition now that he gets to spend time with his grandparents. Every Friday they rent a movie and order pizza. We also let him talk to his grandparents on the phone. They let him have his own drawer at the house to keep his toys and things. They also display pictures that he draws for them at their home so that he feels like he never left and that it is still his “home.”
Angelica Banderas
Angelica Banderas
Child care provider for 7 years
The children in my care mostly have issues about going to kindergarten and missing us and their friends. They are afraid of leaving the safe environment. To help them transition, I’ll take them for a little walk on a field trip to the new school and we’ll talk about the new school and new friends they will make. I will incorporate it into my curriculum as well. We have books that talk about transitioning into kindergarten. I let them know that they will be doing a lot of the same things that they already do here, the routine is going to be the same.

Letter Writing Featured Activity:
Letter Writing
Saying Goodbye Featured Video:
Saying Goodbye
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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