Explaining about Nanna to my 6year old son


Registered User
Feb 14, 2007

Can anyone point me in the right directions so that I can successfully explain to my son what is happening to Nanna - over the summer holidays the relationship seemed to go down hill between them and he now can be quite wary of her.

I can't easily reduce the amount of time i spend there ( except when he's at school) as I have agreed to help my Dad to care for her and I am a single mum so my son and I come as a pair!!!
And to be fair I don't want to keep them apart - that will come later I imagine.

My mum seems to get quite aggressive and argumentative with him at times and his response is to turn away and refuse to deal with - he sits there with arms folded scowling! Then when she tries to touch or cuddle him he pulls away.
This causes my Mum to get quite distressed and she keeps saying to him "What have I done wrong?" and "None of the others treat me like this" etc. The others she refers to are in their 20's!!!

I've tried to discuss it with her and my Dad (who understands the dilemna but like me hasn't a clue how to handle it) but it just doesn't work - I personally think she only hears what she wants. Also I've tried to explain to my son but I'm not sure if I'm handling it the best way possible.

He loves to go to their house but I am anxious as it can be the slightest thing that can set it off. My older brother suggested my son spends some time there without me but I'm not sure....

Sara x

Linda Mc

Registered User
Jul 3, 2005
Nr Mold
There is a good fact sheet on this, you will find them on the homepage left hand side. You will find it under caring for someone with Dementia.

Hope it helps.

Linda x

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
No Sara, I don`t think it`s fair to expect your son to stay at his Nanna`s without you. He is worried enough already.

I have no suggestions, only commiserations, and I hope you will find some help in the factsheets Linda reccommended.

Please let us know if you find any way round this problem as I imagine it is shared by many.

Love xx


Registered User
Aug 9, 2007
Hi Sara

This has always been one of my dilemmas with my twin sons who are just coming up 6. My Mum has dementia and it has been progressing since I was pregnant with them.

I have explained it to them in that Nana's brain has become damaged over time and it is not working too well. This means that she doesn't see things and understand them the way we do. This can make her say things and do things that seem quite odd to us. (eg she used to tell them off if they dropped soft toys as she thought they were real and were getting hurt!) It can also make her shout because her brain is not telling her properly what is happening.

I then likened it to being in a strange place with strange animals and people talking in a language that they did not understand. I asked them how they would feel. Both said scared. I then said that this is what is happening to Nana as she gets worse. I also explained that the screams and moans that some of the residents in the NH make are becuase their brains are sending messages to their mouths that they cannot stop. It is not scarey, it is like someone ringing you up on the phone when they mean to call someone else.

Maybe I have been "lucky" as they cannot remember Nana any other way. Funny thing is that part of my grief is that they have never really known my Mum. I have tried to encourage them to come with me regularly and have always spoken to Mum about them. In the last year though it has been more difficult and they have not visited as regularly, more often just occasionally popping in with their Dad for a couple of minutes at the end of my visit.

Different things have worried them at times and we have always tried to answer them as fully as possible and explain as much as possible. In my mind it is an area that is sorely neglected in all the information available, particularly for the younger children and I would love to see some books written for the preschoolers and junior school kids.

Try to let your son remain as involved as possible but always make sure that you are there as it can be oh so scary for your child. It is important to your Mum and your son to maintain that relationship. I think if you are accepting, your son will too. It takes time and understanding and to a great extent that has to come from you and your son as we cannot understand how our Mums' minds are working. It can be hard but it is so worth it to see the smiles on both their faces at times.




Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
Hi Sara and welcome to TP

I think you have two issues here: how your mother deals with your son and how your son deals with your mother.

In the first instance I have to say I think, depending on what stage your mother is in, you are expecting WAY too much of her to understand when you "discuss" the issue with her. Cause and effect relationships are often fairly early casualties in dementia. Combine that with short term memory loss and frankly, no matter how much she might agree with you at the time, it's not going to stick.

As to your son, you have had some good advice on how to present dementia to young children. However, I would ask you is your son a natural cuddler? Some boys still are at this stage but some are not, and this is more to do with development than any external event. If he's not a cuddler then I don't think you can make him into one.

I suspect that what you want out of all this is that your son should at least give the appearance of responding to your mother when she hugs him, primarily because if he doesn't this upsets her. Is that correct? My rather depressing view is that I don't think it's going to happen. Lets face it, it's a bit much to expect a 6 year old to treat with complacency someone who one moment is agressive and the next moment wants to hug him. As adults we can find this changeable aspect of our loved ones hard to handle, so no wonder he responds with scowls. I have to say you're doing pretty well if he just sits there: lots of children would be up and away in this situation.

As to spending time there without you: you say your mother can be quite aggressive? I would think one on one time would be a VERY bad idea, unless you want to put him of going there at all.

Tender Face

Account Closed
Mar 14, 2006
NW England
Just my view - but 'explaining' to children is one thing ... managing the actual impact (short and long term) on what they might witness is completely different. Children - especially young children - can be so hugely affected by witnessing (even just hearing) acts of aggression especially between people they love - whether they themselves are the direct victim or not.

It's a question I have raised myself with experts at work who are regularly involved with providing therapy for children who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence. Because we - as adults - can rationalise aggression or violence - verbal or otherwise as being due to someone's 'dementia' does it make it 'explainable' and therefore not as traumatising to the child? Of course not.

I'm sorry to be so blunt Sara, but I think your brother's suggestion is completely wrong. To leave a minor alone in the company of someone with dementia - with all the unpredictability issues alone - and especially if there have already been instances of aggression is tantamount to neglect in my book! Even if an adult and primary caregiver is there (in this case your dad I gather) how would he manage the potential conflict between meeting your mum's needs and taking responsibility for a young child at the same time?

I appreciate how difficult this is for you and sympathise with the 'trying to do right by everyone' - including helping your dad. Sorry, but the children always have to come first for me. If that means juggling your time / work/ other commitments to help during the school day, then so be it. On top of all the emotional fall out, it's 'Welcome to the world of juggling', I'm afraid.

Sorry if that all seems very negative .... although my child is somewhat older and I do have a partner to help, 'visiting grandma' is now a rare and usually very brief affair for him - and under my constant supervision because of previous episodes of aggression either towards him or to me when he has been witness. I can only sympathise.

Love, Karen, x


Registered User
Jan 4, 2006
Must agree with Karen.
If your mum at times is aggressive towards your son, he should not be left there. My mum once started attacking my son - only time I sceamed at her - the attack came from nowhere. We love ou parents, we have a responsibility to protect ou children.

Love Helen


Registered User
Jul 6, 2007
leigh lancashire
Hi,all i can say is that i have a 6 year old.I have explained what is happening to his grandad and he is so caring for himit is unbelievable for a child.However,there is no aggression present with dad at this time,he is actually like a child himself.Leaving your child with your mum would (in my eyes) be unsuitable.You have to think of all 3 of them together,and will you truly relax knowing the situation.its a shame and priorities are sometimes hard to shuffle.take care and good luck.love elainex

Kate P

Registered User
Jul 6, 2007
Hello Sara,

Well you've been given some good advice all round - especially from MameeSkye about how to explain it to your son.

We have explained it to my husband's nephew in a similar way abd he accepts it quite well.

I would whole heartedly agree with everyone, that you should not leave your son there without you. Our children are much younger so it presents different problems (mum once gave my then one year old some scissors!!:eek: ) but expecting your six year old to be able to process all this and effectively deal with your mum is a tall order. Remove the comforting presence of his mum and it really is too much.

I take my mum out with the girls twice a week on the mornings that I look after her, as I want them to have some memories of their grandma but I would never leave her alone with them, as dementia is unpredictable and even if your mum is not too aggressive now, there's no knowing what could suddenly upset her and set it off.

Wishing you the best

Kate P


Registered User
Feb 14, 2007

Hello and thank you for all the opinions given to me. It does seem to make interesting reading especially Mameeskye's ideas on how to explain things to him

Just as an update I have found that since the holidays have ended and he is not spending such long periods of time at the house he has settled down and seems happier going round to their house. It is a relief as I am wanting him to know his Nanna as long as is possible especially now when for the majority of the time she is just confused and forgetful.

As to the advice about not leaving him there - though may I stress that he is never completely alone with her I am still in 2 minds. Its not happened yet but who knows!!


Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
SaraS said:

As to the advice about not leaving him there - though may I stress that he is never completely alone with her I am still in 2 minds. Its not happened yet but who knows!!
No, I think we all understood he wouldn't be left "alone" with her, but I think Kate has a very valid point: simply having Mum in the background is very reassuring at this age (actually a lot of ages).


Registered User
Feb 14, 2007
Thats true I didn't think of it like that Jennifer! Its just hard getting the balance right - especially when I have a small family network as a single parent, have recently moved closer to their home and have fewer friends as yet nearby and may need to rely on them in (or more to the point my Dad) emergencys such as him being taken poorly at school ( I work) etc

Recent Threads

Members online

Forum statistics

Latest member