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My 2-year-old granddaughter and 3-year-old grandson always throw a big fit when I leave them after playing with them for 1-2 hours and it breaks my heart :(

I do tell them that "I will be back", and when they see me the next day or later that day, I say (or my grandson says), "Hey Nana's back!"

How do I leave from my 2-year-old granddaughter and 3-year-old grandson after playing with them for 1-2 hours? Any suggestions?

27

This happens often and they will sort it.

As you say they are always happy to see you so it is not something that lasts long with them.

Have you tried telling them “Nana has to go shopping now and will see you later (or tomorrow) ” or other simple reasons.

Had this when dropping kids off at nursery. Tough for a week or so then they got used to it - it’s often just due to a change in routine. Even the nursery staff helped by asking them to get a game out. It is always tough at the time though.

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    Ohh perfect suggestion is to pre occupy them with painting or something to distract them instead of them just focusing on me! Thank you!! – Nana Gina May 17 at 21:05
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    does not last long, +1. Thirty seconds, and I'd be impressed. If they're left to dwell on it, I'd blame the nursery staff for not focusing their attention elsewhere asap. That's the part you never see, because if they can still see you, that 30 second clock hasn't started yet. – Mazura May 18 at 10:23
  • @Mazura so will you also blame the parents as the OP is probably at the family home? Based on the original question. – Solar Mike May 18 at 10:38
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    nursery staff was an easy way to word, guardian that takes possession of the child in the interim or otherwise (Read: this also includes Nana in the reverse) – Mazura May 18 at 10:43
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    Speaking as someone who used to work in nursery at church - most kids will throw a big fit. Most kids will calm down in about 30s once their primary caretaker is gone. Even the worst tantrums I've dealt with only took perhaps 5 minutes of book reading. The faster you leave, the better, despite how your emotions feel. – Wayne Werner May 18 at 17:25
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Fear of separation is something most parents will be familiar with. If it happens to you too, I can only read that as a sign that your relationship to them is working. Yes, it's heart breaking to all of us, but it'd be far worse, I think, if they didn't care whether we left.

You can help them with their anxiety by introducing play into your departure, to lighten up that otherwise sad event. At that age, you will usually get a good response for things like saying "bye bye, I'm leaving" and then take the wrong door, and walk into the toilet or something. "oh no, that wasn't right, now I'll leave", you say, and walk into the wardrobe. I'm not surprised if they'll laughingly show you the door.

Another way would be to put on your clothes in the wrong way, or dress correctly but name the pieces of clothing inaccurately. "I'll just have to put on my shoes" you say, as you put on your gloves, etc.

If it's sad, help make it playful.

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    Ohhh I like that suggestion also! Make it like a game! Make them happy before I leave. I do make them laugh and my grand son says "Silly nana!" lol Thank you! – Nana Gina May 17 at 21:09
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    Fear of separation has to be prepared for. "Nana's got to leave soon" (20min later...) "Ok, Nana's got to leave in 5 min." (10 min later...) "OK, Nana's leaving. Love you. See you soon." (5min of omg... and then ok bye, go away, I'm coloring) +1 – Mazura May 18 at 10:30
  • ok great idea!Thank you!! – Nana Gina May 18 at 13:23
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    Possibly another tool to add to your bag is to ask what they’d like to do together when you come back tomorrow (or whenever it is). Get them to look forward to the next tome you’re there. – Fogmeister May 19 at 8:15
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I found with my kids they are much better if you tell them in advance when something they don't like (eg: bedtime, chores, putting clothes on to go out) is going to happen. Whatever you do, don't just spring it on them.

So if you can only stay for a couple of hours, tell them that up-front. For younger kids, who might not have the best memory skills, its a good idea to remind them periodically too.

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    I see now @Mazura was saying roughly this in the comments of other posts, so consider this a full post backing them up. – T.E.D. May 18 at 14:52
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    Worked very well with my son. They can get used to the idea. That's almost a politician's tactic: "We are only discussing, nothing has been decided yet, no need to worry!", and then at the point of implementation "but we have discussed that for a long time already, this is nothing new!" But it's not simply manipulative, it's also taking them seriously because it involves them. Things do not simply happen arbitrarily over their heads, but there is a plan they are part of. Perhaps with a little wiggle room after announcing 5 more minutes: "OK, one more game of x", even if that's 10 minutes. – Peter - Reinstate Monica May 18 at 23:43
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    +1 this definitely has a place in the list of possible options, but I'd also be wary that this might not be for everyone. For anxious kids, I think 20 minutes advanced notice may just mean 20 more minutes of stressing about your eventual departure. But for some it'll probably work, and if so, great. – dxh May 19 at 5:47
  • @dxh - Underrated comment. All kids are different, and nobody is more of an expert on a kid than that kid's parents. So, as always, parents feel more than free to bin any "expert advice" that conflicts with what you know about your child. – T.E.D. May 19 at 12:37
  • Small children sometimes struggle with the concept of a time frame given in minutes - an alternative can be measuring through activities, e.g. “We can read one more story.” or “We have time for two more rounds of <game>.” – Stephie May 19 at 20:51
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There are lots of good answers already but no one has mentioned that you must make sure that 'throwing a fit' does not give them the outcome they want. Kids are learning all the time, and when a behaviour results in a favourable outcome, they will do it more.

It's quietly likely that their parents give in to tantrums, or are still in the process of teaching the kids that tantrums don't work, but kids are quite able to work out that different behaviours are appropriate for different adults.

So, yes, give them lots of warning and reassure them that you'll be back, but then be firm and walk out. Once the audience has gone, they'll calm down. It won't work instantly; expect it to take a few lessons before they learn, especially if you've been accidently rewarding them for bad behaviour in the past.

Remember that you're also modelling 'good parenting' to the parents, who may be going through this for the first time.

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    Yes that’s exzactly what I do now and I can hear them screaming and then I’ll text my daughter....how are the kids now? And she says they’re fine now. So maybe.i need to keep doing this to help them realize that I will be back??? It is nice to feel wanted and loved but gee-wilikersss! 😏 – Nana Gina May 19 at 16:32
  • This can be generalized to a larger principle. Misbehavior is generally goal-oriented. Figure out what the goal is and deny it. – EvilSnack May 20 at 12:09
  • I used to stick to this attitude militantly when my kids were young. With experience, I realized that two of my 3 weren't "throwing fits" when they got upset for attention, but because they felt disrespected and insecure with changes forced on them with no notice. Coming down on them like a ton of bricks didn't really accomplish anything but confirm those feelings and make everyone in the house stressed out. There is no one approach that works for every child. – T.E.D. May 20 at 16:20
  • @T.E.D. - absolutely agree, some tantrums really are because the child can't handle the situation and needs more love and affection. And there can be more than one reason at the same time. – Robin Bennett May 21 at 7:54
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ROUTINE is the key. This is normal and happens all the time.

  1. Tell them in advance that you're going to leave. "Nana is going to have to go in 5 mins." "Nana is leaving in just 1 minute." "Nana is leaving say goodby." I have found that an alarm (like an egg timer) works really well for this. It's not Nana's fault she has to go, the alarm went off.
  2. Make a goodby routine. Hug, fist bump, high five, then just walk away. Make it simple and fast and in the beginning, don't vary no matter what.
  3. Distract them before leaving. "Nana has to go, so you can play race cars." Try to make it positive. If you leave this good thing happens (like dinner, or different toys or something)
  4. Leave, quickly and quietly and completely. If you need to talk to their mom or something, do it outside out of their perception.
  5. When you get there next time, remind them of the last time you left and now you came back. Emphasize the coming back, "Hi, see, I told you I would come back today. Let's play blocks."

It should only take a few days, maybe a week.

If the problem persists, then you are going to need to make your visits less fun. Instead of playing, try just sitting. Think about it in the extremes (as kids their age don't often have great memories yet). The only time in the whole day they get to do anything fun EVER is when Nana, is there, then, of course, they cry when Nana leaves, they won't get to have fun ever again. So help it by reversing the role for a few days. Again, only if the issue persists. Make your visits BORING (it won't take much) that way, in their mind it reverses. When will Nana get out of here so I can finally have some fun?

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    Be boring so that they won't mind when you leave? That's the human relations equivalence of "I salted your ice cream so you won't be so sad when there is no more". I think along the way you missed the point of having ice cream in the first place. – dxh May 19 at 5:29
  • Yes! Establishing some sort of routine is the key. So "(1) After this game (story, whatever...) nana has to leave." // I'd put another step between 3 and 4. (3+) Tell the children when you'll be back. – MaxW May 19 at 20:47
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Speak with parents. Maybe they need more attention from mam and dad? Try to calm down physical "intensity" of plays before departure. Turn to "telling stories" instead of jumping in play yard. Even you can give them simplified "homework" to do something before next meeting? Ask them to give you a promise. 2-3y old have capability to understand many things.

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It has been said in the other answers implicitly, but it really should be stressed more: do not try to sneak away to make goodbye's less painful.

That will make the next goodbye only harder. (And its great that your grandchildren are so happy with you :-))

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  • Yayyy THANK YOU ALL FOR SUCH GREAT SUGGESTIONS!!!! I REALLY like this website :))) – Nana Gina May 21 at 12:51

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