Explaining estranged alcoholic grandmother to 6 year old?

Looking for advice on how to explain to my 6 year old that she has not seen her grandmother for 2 years because she is an alcoholic. My mother was a care giver for my child until age 4 when the light went on for me as to the cause of all she abnormal behavior and strange happenings in her life. She is a functioning alcoholic and I was living in denial about her alcoholism, so it was hard to tell. But as it progressed her rage increased, as did her dependency on me, extreme lows and bouts of self pity and blame. I confronted her about 2 years ago and she stopped taking care of my child. She became very defensive and crazy and demanded that she needs to talk to my child alone to explain things to her. I have not allowed this to happen. We have spoken over the phone a few times over the past 2 years as I tried to find a way for my child to have some continuation of a relationship with her but she refuses unless it is on her terms which are to spend time alone with my child.


I explained to my child that grandma was moving away which she did and they have not had any contact for 2 years. My child asks me about 4-5 times per year why there is no contact with grandma. I have been able to change the subject with a quick answer that she is busy, lives far away but still loves her. Now my child is asking me if grandma died and is demanding to know why she can not call her. I have assured her that grandma has not died and I have put off an explanation. Any advice on how to discuss this with my child? Thank you!

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Sep 19, 2015
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by: Jack

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Mar 04, 2012
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by: Jill

My mother is a highly functional alcoholic, who started drinking "in the closet" about the time I was pregnant with my first child. It has escalated in the last few years, with several rehab stints, relapses, and now DUI's and upcoming prison time. I haven't needed to explain anything to my 7 and 4 yr old...yet. But I know I will need to very soon. They aren't allowed to be unsupervised around my mother. We do let her see the children, but only if she is reasonably sober and in control. I have waffled back and forth on whether to even let her see them, but didn't want to punish her (and my father). However, along the way, if it reached the point of withholding the children to 'draw the line' and quit being an enabler, we will also need to do that. The problem is, your child may start blaming you for her grandmother's absence. If she is asking questions now, then you should start explaining sooner than later. My plans are to tell my children that "Grandma is sick and needs to see a doctor to feel better". You could explain that until she does that, you can't see her. If they ask what is wrong, I will probably tell them that "her heart hurts" until they are old enough to understand the concept of alcoholism. It's heartbreaking, isn't it? I applaud you for standing your ground.

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