If the parents of adult children don’t have healthy relationships with their kids, it can be hard for those grandparents to have healthy relationships with the grandkids. After all, the grandparents have to go through their kids to have access to the grandkids. This can lead to grandparent alienation.
Grandparent alienation is about power and control. The parents have the control. They use the grandkids as instruments to wield it. This can be a way to “punish” the grandparents or manipulate them to do things the parents’ way. Here are some examples that can suggest that this is happening.
- Parent withholds or limits contact with grandchildren via phone, Facetime, or face to face.
- Creates strict rules around when, where, and how contact can happen.
- Ties contact to the parents’ needs or desires, such as babysitting, the child’s need for transportation, or money to pay for something for the child such as school, sports, or other activities.
- Avoids including the grandparents in things like holidays, birthdays, or school functions.
- Parents don’t allow the grandchildren to speak lovingly of the grandparent.
- Parents subtly teaching the grandchildren to treat the grandparents poorly.
- Lack of appreciation or acknowledgement for the grandparents’ positive influence in the grandchildren’s lives.
- Criticizing the grandparents in front of the grandkids.
- Lying to justify the parents’ behavior.
- Telling the grandchildren about adult issues that don’t concern them.
- Refusal to have a conversation based on the issues.
- Ignoring the grandparents.
- Grandparents feel that their child is “brainwashed” by the spouse.
This is unhealthy for all parties. Although the grandparents love their grandchildren, many disengage because they fear that the damage to the grandchild is made worse by their involvement. There is no one size fits all solution to this problem. If this is impacting your family, you may wish to speak to a therapist to find your way through it.