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Grandparents Working to Counteract Mother’s Instability in Preschooler’s Life


Our adult daughter and her 3-year-old son are living with my husband and me.  We are concerned about her parenting and its adverse effects on our grandson.  

Our daughter is very independent and does not welcome advice from us. She works varied hours, comes home tired and is irritable with her son. She is always telling him “no” and even pushes him away. When I call her attention to this, she snaps at me. 

She is not willing to go to parenting classes to improve her skills. She has even left her son in our care so she could live with her boyfriend. Our grandson’s father walked out on them, but now my daughter is thinking of getting back together with him. I have discovered that the two of them smoked crack before our grandson was born and that she smoked marijuana while she was pregnant. 

Our affectionate, precious grandson is now waking up in the middle of the night crying. He is not wet, hungry, thirsty, etc. We can’t calm him; it is like he is in a trance and is unaware of his surroundings. During the day, he is loving and attached to his grandfather and me, frequently giving us hugs and kisses. He loves to read and draw and has a good attention span.  

Has he been hurt by his mother’s prenatal marijuana use? How can we help him through this difficult time with our daughter’s unsettled behavior?



It is likely that the instability your grandson has experienced is now taking a toll on him emotionally and behaviorally. It sounds like there is tension at home. We strongly encourage you to avoid adult conversations in his presence. Wait until he is asleep or is in another room. Children are smart. They pick up on tension and they know when adults are arguing. Overhearing adult conversations can be confusing for them.  

It is also important to provide as much structure and stability as you can since this gives children a sense of emotional and physical safety. If your daughter agrees, establish a consistent daily routine. This will create predictability in your grandson’s day, which will be comforting for him. Children crave routine and respond well to schedules. This, in turn, allows him to feel safe as he navigates the world and interacts with those around him.

It is difficult to know exactly why your grandson is crying at night. He may not be able to express why he is upset because he may not even know the reasons himself. He could be experiencing night terrors. Offer him hugs and kisses. ​Comfort him. Tuck him back into bed and assure him that he is safe and all is well.  

If you are concerned about his prenatal exposure to marijuana, have him evaluated by his pediatrician. And continue to offer him your unconditional love and plenty of praise. Hopefully, your daughter will begin to learn from your example and place her son’s needs before her own. If not, you will remain a consistent source of love and support.