Before You Cut Ties, Tell Grandparents Comparisons Hurt

Just came across this Dear Amy column and thought it was pretty darned good advice.  

Sometimes, we grandparents are just not aware we do this. The point Amy makes about communicating is so right on. If we let things go until they get really bad, we have a much more daunting task ahead of us. Why not try to nip it in the bud?

Author, Pat Hanson

Author, Pat Hanson

In the current issue of GRAND Magazine, writer and grandparent expert Dr. Pat Hanson shares her view on starting the forgiveness process in this article – Healing Fractured Relationships. Check it out here.

What do you think of Amy’s advice below?

Dear Amy: My daughter, “Ally,” and my husband’s sister’s children, “Abe and Gretchen,” are all teenagers. While my family relocated away from our Midwestern hometown (pre-kids), my sister-in-law’s family lives near my parents-in-law.

They function as a multigenerational family, with the grandparents driving carpools and volunteering at school. Ally and her cousin Abe are two weeks apart in age. Since before their birth, every time I told my MIL something Ally accomplished — crawling, walking, reading, driving, whatever — her reply was the same; “Oh sure, Abe does that too,” followed by a random, long-winded story about Abe and Gretchen.

Through the years, it has only gotten worse, to the point where we no longer visit them and only speak on birthdays and Christmas.

My in-laws are so engrossed in these kids’ lives, they barely seem to notice the lack of contact. Multiple attempts asking them to please stop interrupting us and our child to talk about the other grandchildren has gotten us nowhere.

The stupid part is that all of these kids are successful. Ally has had some unique and wonderful opportunities that she wishes they would be proud of and interested in, or at least shut up long enough to be aware of. Abe and Ally will soon graduate from high school; Ally has asked for our permission not to invite my in-laws to hers.

She wants to avoid a day of nonstop comparisons.

My husband had a wonderful relationship with his grandparents and is hurt and confused by all of this. Is it wrong of us to ask them to stay away? — Proud Mom

grandparentsDear Mom: You don’t mention ever telling these grandparents how their behavior affects you — only that you decided to cut them off because of their single-minded focus on these other children. And so now — because they haven’t had any access to your daughter, they know her even less than before. You also don’t mention any conversations your husband might have had with his parents about this.

I understand that their behavior is hurtful, but the message you are sending to your daughter is that if family members are difficult or challenging — or don’t give you the quality of attention you deserve — then it is permissible to sever from these family members.

I recognize how diminishing and inappropriate this behavior is on the part of the grandparents, but you have taught your daughter how to react to this. You need to ask yourselves — is she better off for it? She seems not to have a relationship with either her peer-cousins or her grandparents — nor does she want to have one.

You should encourage her to include her grandparents (along with other family members), but leave the final decision up to her.

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