Shut out at holidays? In this season of giving, send love from afar and start repairing relationships

By Susan Hoffman

Dear Susan:

Having grandkids has made the holidays even more special, but I’m worried this year will not be special at all. My daughter and son-in-law won’t speak to me and, worse, aren’t allowing me access to my grandson.

It all began when they were having financial problems and asked me to add them to one of my credit-card family plans. They defaulted on the payments, and I had no choice but to give back the card.

They were furious, my son-in-law went nuts, and my daughter screamed at me. I’m afraid I said some things out of anger, which didn’t help.

It has been nearly six months since I’ve seen my grandson, and I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried calling numerous times, and they won’t answer or return my calls, and they ignore my weekly emails, as well. I even tried asking my daughter to lunch, which she declined, reasoning that she needed time to work through past emotional hurts caused by me.

I’ve done everything, including suggesting that we go to counseling. I can’t get them to talk to me, and when they don’t communicate, it’s hard to make amends. I can’t even think about what it will be like not to see them during the holidays. And what about gifts? Why won’t they let me just go pick up my grandson for a few hours? What can I do?

— Rescuer grandmother

 

Susan responds:

I understand the joy that only a child can bring to holidays and the tremendous letdown we experience when our expectations aren’t filled. Letting go of what once was is never easy, but let’s take a look at the big picture.

Repairing your relationships with your daughter and son-in-law is the only way you will be able to preserve the relationship with your grandson. Rarely can you have one without the other; most parents aren’t going to hand over their child to a grandparent when they are carrying anger.

My suggestion is to develop a plan of action. Part of that action may seem passive at first. The frequent contacts will drive away your daughter. Give her the space she has requested. She doesn’t want a sit-down or a phone conversation, and her emails have been nonexistent except to decline your invitation and ask for more time.

An appropriate response on your part would be, “Thank you for getting back to me. I completely understand that you want time to work past emotional hurts.” Then, wait it out for a reasonable time before kicking it up a notch. You have not just one but many options, and each situation dictates the exact plan of action.

The holidays may need to be celebrated from a distance this year, with gifts sent through the mail. As hard as that is, it’s the long-term relationship that is at stake.

Keep in mind, however, to always include your son-in-law. Avoid making helpful suggestions such as counseling, too; it is perceived as controlling and will only backfire.

Susan Hoffman is the director of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection (AFGGC) and the author of A Precious Bond.

A Precious Bond — the film

A new DVD produced by AFGGC, also entitled A Precious Bond, is the first documentary film about unreasonably denied grandparent visitation rights. Visit apreciousbond.com for more information or to order (by donation) the film or the book.

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