Do whatever it takes to keep in contact with your grandchildren
BY KAREN L. RANCOURT
In the six years I have been writing an advice column for young parents and grandparents (Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, posted by Mommybites.com), several grandparents have contacted me wanting help with issues related to having access to their grandchildren. My advice in these situations is consistent: Do whatever it takes to keep in contact with your grandchildren.
My most recent example is a grandmother who has not seen her grandchildren in ten months. She feels her son-in-law is mean to her, even abusive towards her, although never in the presence of her daughter. When she told her daughter about her son-in-law’s treatment of her, her daughter did not believe her. The grandmother announced that she would never set foot in her daughter and son-in-law’s house again. Taking this action may have momentarily made her feel better, but in the long run she is just punishing herself.
My first question to this grandmother, and others in similar situations, is: Do you want to see your grandchildren again? If the answer is yes, I suggest some steps to follow to regain access to her grandchildren.
First, write a blame-free, non-judgmental apology along these lines: “I am sorry that I have acted in ways that have been upsetting to you.” Or, “I am sorry it has taken me so long to reach out to you.” Or, “I am sorry I am not part of your lives and I miss you very much.” This type of apology can be extremely difficult to make, especially if the grandparent is feeling disrespected or mistreated.
Second, find other outlets for your frustration about the situation, such as sharing them with a close friend or a professional. You may need to vent, but doing so in front of the offending parties will not help.
Third, create safe conditions for yourself. For example, I suggested that the grandmother bring a friend when spending time with her grandchildren to decrease the chances of unpleasant exchanges with the son-in-law.
In all cases, my advice is the same: Put your anger, wounded pride, and hurt feelings aside, and do whatever it takes to keep in contact with your grandchildren.
About the Author
Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D., writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Help Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts.