Possible Abandonment Issues

Amber - posted on 02/07/2012 ( 15 moms have responded )

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Is it possible for a 2 year old to feel abandoned? From the time my son was born till about 10 to 11 months old his grandparents watched him on the weekends. He loved going over there and playing, and spending time with them. Shortly before he turned one they moved to a place about 3 or 4 hours away. We don't get to see them very often but when we do he doesn't want anything to do with them. He won't give them hugs, kisses, or really interact with them. He will interact with the other people in the room but fights us when it comes to them. Is it possible that he could be holding a grudge or have abandonment issues?

( sorry It's a long one)

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As a military wife, I can assure you that even newborns can have separation anxiety. My littlest one was born while my husband was deployed. She had heard his voice through most of the pregnancy, and missed him from the very start. There were countless times she was completely inconsolable unless we were talking to him on Skype or listening to one of the songs he had recorded of himself singing. He finally got to come home when she was 6 months old and she KNEW him. That was the very first time I really saw her being happy. She did give him some cold shoulder treatment as a sort of punishment for being gone, but she was so happy he was finally home that it didn't last long.



The thing with two-year-olds is that they feel things that they often don't understand, or at least not know how to express it. It might help if you give them the words. "Are you sad because you don't see them as often?" You could also relate to their feelings personally. "I really miss seeing Grandma and Grandpa, too. But we'll get to see them in [amount of time] and I'm so excited! We'll get to play with them." Then, if there's a specific date you're going to see them on, get him involved with the calendar - specifically crossing off each day. "Yay! Now we have [counting] days until we can see Grandma! Aren't you excited? I bet Grandma is excited, too!" These things might help him adjust a little quicker.

Sara - posted on 02/09/2012

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very young children absolutely have anxiety related to a person they see regularly suddenly being around less. And one of the ways they cope with it is to reject that person when they do see them. They are angry, but they know that expressing anger can alienate adults, so they just try to avoid interaction with the person. It does not mean they don't remember or don't love the person. They're just scared they will do something to alienate them further and cope by avoidance. (sound like some grownups you know?) The Emotional Life of the Toddler is an excellent book that explains about this situation in a helpful way.

Tina - posted on 02/07/2012

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I would say so I have a younger brother. I basically played the role of the paren did everything for him. He followed me everywhere. We had a very close bond I had to move out. Down the track I went to see him. He was very upset withdrawn. I tried to cuddle him and play with him. He'd curl up on the couch wouldn't so much as look at me. I felt terrible I did feel like I'd abandoned him. My 1 year old was the same when I came out of hospital after having my daughter. Just be persistant. Try to let them do a much as they can with him when he sees them. Although he may act like he wants nothing to do with them and doesn't want their attention he does. It will get better. Do they have internet access. If so maybe they could video chat or what ever so he can see them regularly.

Meaghan Van - posted on 02/09/2012

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absolutely! it will just take time...when ever they call make sure he talks to them on the telephone... When I had my daughter, I was in NICU with her for 12 days and nights... my son had never been without me overnight before... and now i was gone for almost 2 weeks!! he wouldnt hug or kiss me wouldnt listen to me when i talked to him, would only laugh when i grabbed him and tickled him, but not at me being silly or anything... he wouldnt even let me read him a story (which is one of his favorite things to do)it was heartbreaking...lol... he loved his new baby sister more than he loved me at that point. it went on for about 3 months and then he finally broke down and came over for a cuddle...lol... dont despair, hes just upset over the change, he will come around... make sure he talks to them on the phone often and ask them to send him a letter in the post that you can read to him, perhaps with a picture... and even better use skype and then he can see them on the computer... my son is closer to my sisters who are on the other side of the world (in Canada, I live in NZ) than he is to his aunties here, because we skype at least once a week. he gets very very excited when hears the computer "ringing" lol. just things like that will help.

Pamela - posted on 02/08/2012

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Of course that is possible. It is also possible that something else happened to him in your absence while he was with them that has triggered this kind of behavior.



If you are really concerned there are child psychologists who can help sort out the issues. There are also ways to help heal the behavior by sitting him down with him and the grandparents and talking about things. Even 2 year olds can have conversations that are meaningful!



Simple questions like "Did we do something that made you mad? Sad? Unhappy?" can work with 2 year olds.

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Whitney - posted on 02/10/2012

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I know children can have abandonment issues. My husband left when my son was 9 months old and at the time he was still nursing and bit me 5 times in a day after the husband left. He recently again had some issues when someone else watched him a couple days (he is now 2). He would not let me go anywhere and always wanted me around. He may remember that you leave when you see them. So maybe try hanging out with all of you together a few times before leaving him again. It might work. They have a little mind of their own.

Amber - posted on 02/08/2012

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It's the only set of grandparents he has so I am kinda paranoid about his relationship with them. I think through time he will get over it, I just hope it's sooner rather then later.

Sarah - posted on 02/08/2012

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I don't know if this will help at all but I have a 20mth old Son and a 6mth old Daughter. We live next door to my MIL & FIL. They come over A LOT. My Children don't dislike them, but they are hesitant and sometimes my son runs and hides under the Kitchen table when they come over. My Mother lives about 30mins away and she visits once or twice a fortnight and she can't even walk in the front door before my Son is squealing with excitement and running up to her wanting a hug, my Daughter laughs and smiles at her and they both just want Nanny the whole time she she is here, and cry when she goes home. This has been the case since they were both born, even though my Mothers and my relationship was originally VERY strained. (we weren't speaking at all until my Son was born, she didn't even care when my Husband and I told her she was going to be a Grandmother for the first time).



Basically my point is, I think children are very capable of abandonment issues as my kids are distant when I come home from having been at work (I do Tupperware so usually a SAHM) and if your parents were once-adored then they certainly wouldn't have been forgotten so quickly. Kids are far more intelligent and capable than we give them credit for :)

Jane - posted on 02/08/2012

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Sounds to me more like an attachment issue. When a child creates a bond, and then that bond goes away, they turn it into attachment problems. Do you have picture of them around he can see all the time? Even pictures with him and them together? It will get better, they do get over it, but I dont think it is abandonment problem. Try searching for info on attachment issues in children and you will see the difference. Good luck!!!

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/08/2012

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He very well could be upset that they "left", but I'm not sure at 2. I was about 4 when my auntie moved away suddenly, and I remember being really angry with her, and it took a long time to understand that she hadn't left me, she'd moved.



It is more likely that he is forgetting that they are grandma and grandpa. It took quite awhile for my sons to "remember" each time we visited my grandfather when they were that age.

Andrea - posted on 02/08/2012

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Having adopted a child when she was 6 months old, I would definitely say children that young can have abandonment issues. We received training on how to handle it. Since each child & circumstance is different, I would recommend seeking the suggestions of a professional. Something I will recommend, though is to reassure your son that his grandparents still love him & want to spend as much time as possible with him, but don't turn it into a battle & force him to interact with them when you're together. Try to keep it low-key & let him set the pace of the physical contact while you're all in the same room. I really liked the other suggestion of a brag book for him to look at regularly when you're away from them. In the class I took, they also stressed not to react negatively to the child's rejection. If his grandparents get angry, sad, or frustrated with his behavior, it will only reinforce his desire to avoid contact.

Amber - posted on 02/08/2012

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Thanks for the opinions. Neither one of us have Skype but we talk on the phone with them about once a week. Maybe next time they come down I will see if they want to take him out just the three of them.

Sherri - posted on 02/07/2012

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I would honestly seriously doubt it a 2yr old in my opinion is not capable of such feelings.

Elfrieda - posted on 02/07/2012

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I don't know, but is it possible he just doesn't remember them, and feels the pressure to be super friendly and that's why he refuses?



Maybe giving him a little brag book with photos of them, and going through it with him and talking about them, would help. Or talking on Skype in between seeing them.

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