Are You Being Denied Access To Your Grandchildren?

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BY PAT HANSON PH.D.

Unfortunately, grandparents don’t have automatic legal rights to see their grandchildren. In some states, grandparents can petition the court for visitation, but the standard for determining whether or not visitation is awarded varies. Some states ask grandparents to prove that it is in the “best interest of the child” to have a relationship with them. Other states require grandparents to prove it will “harm” the child if they do not have a relationship, a more difficult task.
When parents become estranged or alienated from their adult children, it inevitably affects an existing relationship with their grandkids. An inestimable number, likely a third of America’s 70 million grandparents, may be cut off from seeing their grandkids and not know where to turn. Even if legal avenues can be found, it is an arduous path to pursue.

grandchildrenWhen parents become estranged or alienated from their adult children, it inevitably affects an existing relationship with their grandkids. An inestimable number, likely a third of America’s 70 million grandparents, may be cut off from seeing their grandkids and not know where to turn. Even if legal avenues can be found, it is an arduous path to pursue.

Six ways to cope with grandchild estrangement

1. Connect with other grandparents. Sometimes it helps just to know you are not alone and to learn from other grandparents. Alienated Grandparents Anonymous (AGA) will help you find a support group in your area, start one of your own, seek counseling from their cadre of professionals, or find videos of talks by leading experts on YouTube. Or, join the AARP Online Community Group “Visitation With Grandchildren.” Contact Karen Elaine Jacobs to join a private Facebook group for estranged grandparents.

2. Use social media to pass on your memories and values, in hopes grandkids will discover you.

Learn to use Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Mobile Apps, & Blogging. “Grow Your Digital Legacy On-line” www.grandparentsacademy.com offers Aaron Larsen’s series of self-paced webinars, designed for the least ‘techy’ of us – See page 35.

3. Consider professional counseling.

An esteemed psychologist and author of When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along, Dr. Joshua Coleman offers weekly webinars that provide sensible cutting edge advice such as The Five Most Common Mistakes of Estranged Parents. He also offers free Q&A sessions every Monday at 11:30 a.m., Pacific. Join his mailing list at www.drjoshuacoleman.com.

4. Research grandparent visitation laws and find an attorney.

Each state has specific laws and the emotional and financial costs vary widely depending on the region, the alienator’s resolve, and whether the grandparents are willing to represent themselves in court (though this is not recommended).

5. Try mediation before court.

The adversarial nature of taking a family member to court can tear families apart and cause waves of damaged relationships. Most grandparents want to avoid going that far.

6. Be patient.

Change takes time so it behooves you to focus on the positive and imagine positive outcomes instead of worst-case scenarios.

To find free, or low-cost services in your area, call the Mental Health Information Center, toll-free, at 800-789-2647. This link, www.psychologytoday.com, or the online Mental Health Locator Service are resources for therapists.

PAT HANSONDr. Pat Hanson is a seasoned health educator, public speaker, and workshop facilitator. She is the author of Invisible Grandparenting: Leave A Legacy Of Love Whether You Can Be There or Not. She lectures nationally on Aging Positively and is a columnist for the magazine: Crone: Women Coming of Age

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