The biggest challenge grandparents face is getting along with their grandchild’s parents. Strong personalities with different parenting philosophies can create conflicts between grandparents and their adult children. And what’s at stake are the precious grandchildren.
Over the years, I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from grandmas who’ve been denied access to their grandchildren. Recently, one of my grandma friends faced that devastating possibility with two of her four grandchildren. She told me, through tears, that her daughter-in-law issued an order requiring all future visits with the six-year old boy and four-year old girl be supervised by the parents.
My friend and her husband are devoted grandparents who had the grandchildren over to their home regularly without parental supervision until this year. They also babysit monthly for their other two grandchildren who live in another state.
The demand for supervised visits came after an incident between the grandfather and granddaughter in which the mom and grandpa disagreed about what happened. As a result, the daughter-in-law demanded supervised visits.
When my friend called her daughter-in-law to ask if she could ease up on the surveillance, the daughter-in-law let loose with such venom and accused her of withholding love for her son.
Heartbroken and defeated, my friend said she was at a loss about how to deal with her daughter-in-law’s anger. She fears that her grandchildren heard the conversation and their relationship will be damaged forever.
When I hear such heartbreaking stories as this one, I want to help the families heal. I encourage them to sit down together and articulate their shared purpose: to nurture a healthy, adjusted child or some other mutual goal.
I listened with empathy and tried to comprehend the depth of my friend’s loss. Getting along with difficult personalities is one of the hardest challenges we face in relationships. We can’t change people, only how we react to them. The incident obviously triggered something big for the daughter-in-law that caused her to react with such anger.
I suggested to my friend that she back off and let her daughter-in-law cool down. Refrain from making any contact with her son or daughter-in-law for a week or two and wait to see what happens.
If she doesn’t get any response, she and her husband could write a note to their son and daughter-in-law and share their pain of not being able to see their grandchildren. Ask for an opportunity to rekindle the loving bond they have shared in the past. Accept their conditions, as painful as they are, and hope that their daughter-in-law will forgive them and regain her trust in them. As unpalatable as this may seem, it’s better than no contact at all.
What saddens me most is that one mistake has fractured this family. I hope that the daughter-in-law finds it in her heart to forgive her in-laws so that her children can enjoy the blessings of devoted grandparents.
I realize this story is taken solely from the grandma’s perspective. Without hearing the whole story, we are left to wonder what’s going on in the daughter-in-law’s mind.
What do mom’s and grandparents think about this tragedy? What suggestions would you give to the family?