Dear David Coleman: My daughter is noticing that her grandparents never visit us

Q My in-laws very much favour one set of grandchildren. It is starting to impact on my children as they have started to notice. My oldest is nine and she often asks why they go to the other house all the time now and never visit us. What is the correct approach when my daughter asks me questions like this?

David replies: In my experience, children don’t necessarily want an answer to the question they ask but do want some level of understanding of the feeling that underlies the question. So, when your daughter asks about her grandparents not visiting, maybe she just misses them, feels disappointed or upset, or even feels jealous of her cousins who do get more of her grandparents’ time.

When she asks why her grandparents don’t visit, you could say briefly that you don’t know (unless there is some explanation that is appropriate for your daughter to know) but then empathise with the likely feelings your daughter has. Particularly when there is no “best” answer, connecting to feelings is sometimes all we can do.

On a separate note, if you haven’t yet raised the issue with your in-laws, it might be worth exploring why they don’t often visit. Perhaps it is to do with the grandchildren, but maybe there is some other unresolved issue there between the adults? If so, then it would be great to understand that better to see if there is some resolution that can be found to facilitate your in-laws coming to visit more.

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