How to deal with losing touch with grandkids
Losing contact with your grandchild, or perhaps more accurately getting cut off from them, is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to grandparents but unfortunately, it happens and it’s on the rise. Each situation leading up to an estrangement is different but it commonly occurs after the marital breakdown of parents. The family conflict ripples out and grandparents are unfairly, but often collateral damage. The emotional toll it takes can be immense and heart-breaking but what can be done?
Family conflict occurs and is exacerbated by poor communication. The best way to begin amends is to build bridges. Even if you’ve been unfairly hurt, remember this person is still your grandchild’s parent. It can be difficult but you need to respect that.
Apologise – Be sincere. No caveats or justifications. You might not have done anything wrong or you might not even know what you did wrong to cause this rift but this is not a time for egos or personal pride. Remember this is the father or mother of your grandchild and they are the parents. They may have made mistakes but they are still the parents. Make peace for the sake of making peace and to mend the relationship, because if you want to see grandchildren, you will need a relationship with both parents.
Make it about the child – Parents going through a separation or divorce are often wrapped in their own conflicts. Yet parents will hopefully do what is best for their child. It might be self-evident that grandparents are good for children but this might not be obvious to parents who have been through emotional turmoil, bitterness and separation. Approach in a sensitive, non-accusatory and non-judgemental way and explain the importance and usefulness of grandparents to children. Remind them the positive role you have taken in the past and that grandparents are not only a source of comfort to children in difficult times but can be the rock of stability in these trying times. You can offer practical help like picking up from school as well as reminding that keeping in touch will help children’s sense of family identity and history.
Talk it out – Sometimes your children (and in-laws) simply have no idea that their parents are feeling so devastated and grief-stricken. They might not have considered the effects of their behaviour on others or presumed you would take your child’s side. Reassure them that you don’t want to take sides, just that you want what is best for your grandchild.
Seek legal help
This should be the last option because starting legal action will almost always end any hope of repairing the relationship between parents and grandparents. Even so, there is no guarantee that going through the courts will provide a happy outcome. Within our current legal system, grandparents do not have an automatic right to have a relationship with a grandchild.
According to Legal Aid NSW, anyone who has an ongoing relationship with the child, or any other person who can show that they are concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child (including grandparents) may apply to the Court for Parenting Orders. A Parenting Order can be an order that you can spend time with or communicate with the child. It will be up to the Court to decide what will happen, based on what is in the child’s best interests.