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Relationships Quick Answers



Our grandchild seems to be reaching out for our son’s ex-wife, rather than us or our son who are his daily caregivers. Should we be worried that he hasn’t bonded to us?

It is important that children have adults in their lives who consistently provide them with sensitive, responsive care. This means that the adults provide warmth and affection, but also structure and limits that are predictable and consistently enforced in a positive way. It also means that adults respond to children’s feelings in sensitive ways, acknowledging their feelings. These behaviors of warmth, structure, and sensitive responses to children’s feelings help children develop a sense of security. If you are providing this type of care, you probably don’t need to worry about your grandson having a close bond with you. Your grandchild probably does have one. However, if you have concerns about your grandchild’s relationship with you, you may want to get an evaluation from a professional counselor.

Children have the capacity to be bonded, or attached, to several adults. Your grandchild can have an important bond to his mother and have a strong bond with you and your son as well—it is not an either/or situation. It is natural for children to want to have relationships with their parents, even when a parent has not been involved. Children with divorced parents adjust better if they have ongoing, supportive relationships with both parents after the divorce. So it is generally recommended that these relationships be encouraged except in situations where the child might be in danger.

It’s not unusual for caregivers to worry about being replaced when new people become part of the child’s life. However, this is unlikely to happen if the caregiver continues to provide sensitive care and is consistently available for the child. Remember that having multiple sources of support benefits children. Working with a counselor to discuss any fears of being replaced can be helpful.




Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Assistant Professor and State Specialist, Human Development & Family Studies, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


Alison Levitch, Human Development & Family Studies Graduate Student, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension







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Last update: Tuesday, August 26, 2008




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