Signs of Grandparent Alienation

grandparent alienation

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.

  1. Parent withholds or limits contact with grandchildren via phone, Facetime, or face to face.
  2. Creates strict rules around when, where, and how contact can happen.
  3. 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.
  4. Avoids including the grandparents in things like holidays, birthdays, or school functions.
  5. Parents don’t allow the grandchildren to speak lovingly of the grandparent.
  6. Parents subtly teaching the grandchildren to treat the grandparents poorly.
  7. Lack of appreciation or acknowledgement for the grandparents’ positive influence in the grandchildren’s lives.
  8. Criticizing the grandparents in front of the grandkids.
  9. Lying to justify the parents’ behavior.
  10. Blaming.
  11. Telling the grandchildren about adult issues that don’t concern them.
  12. Refusal to have a conversation based on the issues.
  13. Ignoring the grandparents.
  14. 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.

Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

healthy boundaries for grandparents

It’s holiday time! Lots of stress can happen when expectations are high, time is short, and buttons are pushed. Old family issues can rear their heads making this an unpleasant time for some people. Here are some guidelines for healthy boundaries for grandparents that may help.

The Parents Rules are Your Rules

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That means that the parents get to decide what are the rules for their children. Consistency matters. It helps to create stability. So, defer to the parents when it comes to bedtime, diet, discipline – everything. This doesn’t mean you have to ask how to do every little thing. Observe how the parents do things and keep the rules the same when the kids are with you. It shows respect and confidence in your kids’ ability to parent. This will go a long way with the parents and the kids.

Don’t Pass the Baby!

Times are different. The previous generation did a lot of things that today’s moms don’t do. One of them is pass the baby. Babies have undeveloped immune systems. Passing the baby to many different people can make the baby vulnerable to infections. Let people admire the baby from afar. If mom wants baby to be held, let her pass the baby to others.

Don’t Ask About (More) Children

Today’s adults are having fewer children or even no children. Trust that if they want kids, they will have them when they are ready. It’s not “wrong” to wait, be childless, or stop at one or two. Infertility is also on the rise. The inability to get pregnant could be a sensitive topic. Avoid talking about it unless the subject is brought to you.

Don’t Let Your Grandkids Run Amok

It can be tempting to be the “good time” grandparent and let your grandkids just run wild. Unfortunately, you don’t have to deal with the temper tantrums later. Kids need discipline. If a child gets away with being sassy, messy, undisciplined, you’re teaching them that’s it’s worthwhile to manipulate and have temper tantrums. It’s much healthier to show them how to make amends, be pro-social, and cope with disappointment.

Don’t Sneak the Kids Treats

Lots of grandparents want to treat their grandkids. Back in the day, that was often done with sweets. Many of today’s parents are more food conscious than in the past. We have a lot more food-like substances and foods with sugar added than in the past. Many people have struggled with emotional eating, too. So parents may not want their kids to associate sugar with rewards. Follow the parent’s guidelines.

Don’t Pump Your Grandkids for Information

Grandparents may be concerned about how things are going. Asking the grandkids for information is not the way to get it. Let your relationship with your children dictate what is shared. Don’t go through the backdoor to get information.

Don’t Use Guilt or Manipulation to Get Your Way

Guilt and manipulation are never the way to improve relationships. They are power plays that create a winner and a loser. If someone loses, the relationship loses. Approach the parents with respect. Allow them their dignity. Respect their power. Parenting is a huge responsibility. They need support. Give it to them.

Assume the Best

People are different. Generations are different. There are bound to be differences in values when it comes to how your kids are rearing your grandkids. Assume that the parents want the best for their kids and are doing their best. Unless the kids are being abused or neglected, it’s all going to be okay. Even the most well-meaning parents make mistakes. Most of us turn out okay.

Grandparents can assume that being a grandparent gives them certain privileges and rights. When children grow up, they become sovereign beings who guide their own lives. They may decide that their rules for themselves are different than those that they were brought up with. That’s okay. Everyone is healthier and happier when their boundaries are respected.