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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 13

It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers.  For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


I don't like granny

It is worrying and upsetting for all concerned, when a usually well loved and familiar grandparent is rejected by a small grandchild. When the child manages to transform him or herself into a thoroughly unpleasant and unlovable little monster, things look grim. This was the situation a friend of mine found herself in.

My friend enjoys being involved with her daughters and their children and was excited at the imminent arrival of another grandchild. To ease the strain on the expectant mum, she would often babysit the four year old, have him at her house or take him out for a few hours. As the pregnancy drew into the final stage the grandson`s behaviour began to change towards her, and by the time his baby brother was born he would no longer go to his grandma willingly. Needless to say she was upset by this, but more worrying for her was the feeling that she no longer liked him!

This feeling is such a surprise. Our expectation is that we will love our grandchildren as they arrive. We have the nicer part of being with them on the whole, and often have the added bonus of more time to spend with them, more patience than their harassed parents can manage and less worry that we are ‘doing the right thing at the right time'.

But what my friend described to me was quite the opposite. As the little boy got older he became more rejecting, sullen and naughty in her company. She began to dread being asked to babysit for him, worse still, care for him for a day! A battle of wills would ensue as the little boy seemingly deliberately found the wrong things to do, refused to eat any meal she prepared, or be interested in anything she offered him.

The saving grace in this sorry tale was that staple of good relationships, communication. My friend talked things over with his mother to fathom how this happened. They discussed it often, feeding back any attempts to talk with the child about his behaviour and why he didn't like Granny anymore. He was saying nothing, wouldn't be drawn, just refused to go to her. By this time she wasn't sorry but relieved. He caused her nothing but worry and upset when he visited or she went to her daughter's house. Being a Granny wasn't supposed to be like this.

The two women talked often about his development and the possibility of the child being upset by the arrival of his brother. His mother had done all she could to make him feel loved and still important to her and daddy. What they began to wonder was if granny's frequent visits to take him out had somehow been linked for him with an extra tired or distracted mummy. The more they thought about it the more they felt this may have been the trigger for his bad behaviour. He might have associated Granny with feeling rejected, and with being angry at the grownups.

They came up with a plan for him to experience some special time unique to him, an opportunity to give him time to reassess Granny! My friend was a little apprehensive, he was such a trial whenever she tried to have fun with him, but nonetheless went ahead with preparations to have him to stay over night. The decks were cleared, the breakables put away and the gin lined up for a hasty pick-me-up once he had gone to bed.

The day arrived and the reluctant, grumpy little boy shuffled into Granny's house, causing her heart to sink and her determination to waver just a touch. For some time after mummy left he maintained hostilities. Granny resolved to brave it out, helped by her master plan. She had thought up a way to regain intimacy. She did this by  pretending to lose a small box and then started  to search for it. She did not invite him to join in immediately, but when she had caught his curiosity, she said she had a secret to share with him, telling him that no-one else must know about it. This proved irresistible and soon he was helping her with the search. She said that as they couldn't find her box at the time, they must continue the secret search next day and she needed him to help her. Caught up in the intrigue, the child went happily to bed. 

The following day, after a fraught breakfast-time and a calming chat with mummy on the ‘phone he remembered the secret that he shared with is grandmother. He helped Granny ‘find' a box containing something very precious - an old heirloom brooch that had been her grandmother's. As he looked at it she asked him not to tell anyone, it was his secret treasure, to look at whenever he visited. Fascinated, he listened rapt as they baked animal cookies and Granny told him all about the brooch.

A small child is unable to keep up the grumpy behaviour when curiosity gets the better of him and sharing a secret is something that says he is trusted and very special.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years. We hope you find the column useful and interesting …  and if you have any comments or suggestions, Maggi would like to hear from you.  email her on .

Please don't send any confidential information to

To view previous articlesin this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page



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