I've cut contact with my mother because it's a toxic relationship. My daughter barely remembers her, but is now starting to ask me questions about "mommy's mom." I think I may have made a mistake by telling her that my mom was sick and couldn't talk, so now I'm trying to figure out what to tell her.

How can I explain my own mother's absence in a way that makes sense to a 4 year old?


2 Answers 2


I would admit the lie. And try to explain at least part of the reason for it, "We couldn't see her anymore, but I didn't think you were old enough to know why then." or "I was embarrassed about it." or whatever the real reason was.

If she is familiar with timeouts that's how I would explain it, "Mommy and mommy's mom were not being nice to each other, so we've been having a timeout for a while. Timeouts for adults last longer than kids'"

If she isn't familiar with timeouts or you expect the idea of children and parents not being on the same side to be too scary, I would make it a normal fact.

Plenty of people have very little contact with extended family. "Your friend Julia's grandparents live by the ocean, they only visited her when she was just born." Perhaps she has other relatives she doesn't often see, "We only saw cousin Jamie that one time at the farm, we can't always be with everyone." Or is familiar with some fictional extended family, "Splinter's mom doesn't visit the ninja turtles very often*"

  • 2
    I think the "timeout" concept is very apt.
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 22:15
  • +1 for an excellent answer overall. I wish could give you another +1 for the "admit the lie" part.
    – sharur
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 22:16

I think something closer to the truth, like "My mother is not kind, or respectful. Being around her is hurtful, and she won't say she's sorry, because she's not."

Emphasize that your would never cut off your daughter, because it's not about making mistakes that accidentally hurt you, like a child might do; your mother's behavior is purposefully, and constant.

  • While I agree with the sentiment, I think much of the explanation would be confusing to a 4 year old. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 15:59

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