Question: We want to build a meaningful relationship with our grandchildren. But our daughter and son-in-law have pushed us away to the point where it seems they don't want much to do with us. So we have very little interaction with the grandkids – and when their parents do allow it, the time is limited.

Answer:

As painful as it may be to accept, this comes down to respecting your kids’ wishes. The reality is that you can’t truly go where you haven’t been invited. If you try to push your way in, you’ll only alienate your daughter and her husband even further. Better to step back and take a close look at the situation before trying to do anything about it.

Try to figure out what’s really going on

Looking back to what might have led to all this could give valuable insights that will help you decide the best next steps. Why do you think your daughter and son-in-law have been keeping their distance?

Things like this happen for a reason. And in our experience, that reason may have something to do with an offense – whether real or imagined. Some people are too easily offended. Others see offenses where they don’t exist. It’s possible that your daughter and son-in-law fall into one of these categories. And if so, there may not be much you can do to solve the problem.

On the other hand, if you believe that you have done something wrong, don’t be afraid to admit it. Even the best-intentioned parents make mistakes. Send your daughter and her husband a short note taking responsibility for your actions. Ask their forgiveness, express your desire to restore the relationship, and request that they let you know how they want to move forward. This may not fix anything, but it’s the right thing to do as you work toward a positive change.

Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help

If it’s possible, and if your daughter and son-in-law are willing, find a certified family counsellor who can sit down with the four of you and help you work through the communication process.

That’s the best way to unpack the deeper implications of what’s happened and start the process of reconciliation. If you can get to the point where someone is willing to say I was wrong, forgiveness and healing can really begin.

A trained therapist can show you how to listen more effectively, hear what’s actually being said, and genuinely understand each other’s concerns. They can also help you talk through family dynamics that might be driving your daughter’s behaviour and causing your feelings of alienation.

But what if your daughter and son-in-law won’t go along with this plan?

When your children still aren’t open to a relationship

If that’s the case, you don’t have much choice except to abide by the boundaries they’ve set. If they ask you not to call or visit, don’t. Sadly, there’s really no way around it. We know it hurts if that means you won’t be seeing your grandchildren as much as you’d like – and maybe not at all. What should you do then?

  • Get some perspective on the situation. Make up your minds that this isn’t the end of the world.

  • Set boundaries of your own so that you won’t be hurt by your daughter’s and son-in-law’s attitudes and actions. “Unrealistic expectations feed disappointment and discouragement, while realistic expectations keep you engaged and content with where your relationship is right now.”

  • Remember who you are as a person in Christ. Don’t become obsessed with this issue, and don’t let your personal worth to be defined by your children’s acceptance or rejection.

  • Guard your own heart and be careful that you don’t become bitter.

  • Talk to your pastor or a professional counsellor to deal with your pain.

  • And always pray. By God’s grace, there’s always a chance that the relationship will change someday.

In the meantime, remember Paul’s advice in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (ESV). Come up with a plan to express your love in small, low-key ways. You can still influence your grandchildren’s lives by sending them cards on birthdays, at Christmas, and on other noteworthy occasions.

Don’t send money or gifts because that may be seen as manipulation. Instead, just say something like, We're thinking of you and praying for you. Love, Grandma and Grandpa. If nothing else, that will lay the groundwork for reconnecting with them once they’re grown and can make up their own minds about having a relationship with you.

Would you let us help?

If you’d like to talk more about your situation, call us for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our professional counsellors would welcome the chance to pray with you and offer practical suggestions. They can also suggest referrals to qualified Christian counsellors in your area. In the meantime, dig into the resources below.

Resources

Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

"Trusting God With Your Adult Child" - Focus on the Family Broadcast

Blessing Your Grown Children


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© 2015, 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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