DEAR AMY: My grandchildren (a boy age 4 and a girl, who is 6) stay overnight with me once a week. Last night while putting them to bed, my granddaughter was chatting and the conversation led to her feelings. She said that she doesn't know why, but she feels like crying a lot of the time. She said, "Even when I'm happy, I still feel like crying." Obviously I was quite concerned. I have never been an interfering mother or mother-in-law, but I wonder if this is a time when something should be said. My son and his wife seem to have a loving relationship, and I have never heard the children say that they argue. My granddaughter has said that they do yell at her often and send her to her room, but this doesn't seem particularly unusual, and at the end of a long day at work both parents are very tired. I raised two boys, so I do not know whether this is common with girls. She seems to have a tendency to be dramatic, but I fear that being this way at 6 years old may bode for worse things later. What are your thoughts?
-- Concerned Grandmother
DEAR GRANDMOTHER: Children do pass through phases marked by deep wells of feeling. It's like their emotional life is opening and growing, right along with their intellectual and physical abilities. I don't think this is a gender-related issue so much as it is about a child who is sensitive and who may also be stressed.
You should tell her, "It's really good that you are talking about your feelings. It's not so good to hold things in." If she is particularly sensitive, her parents may banish her for crying because they are trying to encourage her to get a grip, but this would have the opposite consequence than they intend; they should be as patient and loving as possible, even if they are tired.
This is definitely something to bring to the parents' attention. If the three of you talk and you all feel this is extreme (or if she seems to be getting more upset more often), absolutely raise this issue with her pediatrician.