By Susan Hoffman
It was really hard not seeing our grandson, Charlie, for six months. Our son and daughter-in-law simply made themselves unavailable whenever we asked to visit. Excuses, excuses, excuses. When I finally called and asked my son about it, he told me off, which was both hurtful and also enlightening. I had no idea until then that I had behaved badly.
That’s when I decided that I needed help. The support and coaching that I received from your organization along with the book A Precious Bond gave me the courage to write a letter of apology to my son and daughter-in-law.
My apology was carefully worded, ticking off each and every one of the violations such as criticizing their parenting style and disrespecting boundaries. I promised them that I was on a mission to change my problem behavior. I also made sure to say something positive about the good things that they are doing as parents.
Well, I have to say this approach opened the door because the response from my DIL was filled with detailed information about what it would take for us to get back into our grandson’s life.
Some of the things that she suggested were that we needed to listen better instead of ignoring their rules and doing what we wanted like feeding him junk food and not saying “no.” The DIL said that we complained about not seeing him enough when we should have expressed gratitude about the time that we had. Along those same lines, we should learn to accept it when it’s not convenient to see Charlie instead of us whining about it, (childish and selfish); after all, their family time together comes first.
We did the required work, and we finally got to spend the day with Charlie yesterday. This meant the world to us!
We appreciate your help more than we can ever say. It’s a tough learning experience, and you guys and the book have guided us in a way we may never have been able to figure out.
We understand it’s not over and that we must remain vigilant, but at least we now have some tools.
With all gratitude, Second-Chance Grandparents
Dear Second Chance,
Remember to also congratulate yourselves on behalf of your hard work and your willingness to accept responsibility for your behavior. Certainly what you were doing wasn’t getting you the results that you wanted, which was seeing your grandson, so you sought help, set aside egos for the sake of the child and then tapped into your own resources. It takes a lot of courage to admit faults and even more to be open to changing them.
Your daughter-in-law’s constructive criticism, although hard to hear, was the opening of the communication lines. It is always a good sign for reconciliation when a parent is forthcoming with specific facts. In fact, if they respond at all it’s a good sign.
Knowing the exact mistakes gives you the opportunity to rectify the problems. Our prescribed response letter keeps it neutral; for instance, repeating the criticisms is vital because it demonstrates understanding, and always starting with a positive stroke, such as a “thank you,” is key. Along with showing a willingness to work hard and promising to do better, it doesn’t hurt to let the parents know that they are right.
The grandparents’ job is to concede to improve and to make sure the parents know you are sincere.
Susan Hoffman is the author of A Precious Bond and director of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection.