How to Regain Contact With Grandchildren

Mending Fences Isn't Easy, But Can Pay Rich Rewards

three generations of women
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Regaining contact with grandchildren almost always means mending fences with their parents. The alternative is to wait until your grandchildren are young adults on their own before contacting them. Establishing a relationship at that age can be tough, however. That's why most grandparents shouldn't wait but should try to repair relationships now. If you aren't sure how to do this, consider this advice from readers who have posted on this site who have experienced estrangement and reconciliation.

Examine Your Own Behavior

Many times grandparents say that they aren't sure what they did to cause the rift in their family. Sometimes they truly don't know. Sometimes they are reluctant to really examine their own behavior.

Maturity calls for analyzing oneself first. You can continue to be estranged from your children and grandchildren or take an honest look at your own behavior, which may have contributed to the long-standing rifts, and make amends. This is only possible with accurate reflections, sincere remorse, and communicating the necessary apologies to all parties. -- otherone

Accept the Authority of the Parents

Reconciliation with the parents of grandchildren is impossible unless grandparents understand the difference between parenting and grandparenting. Grandparents must accept the parents' right to make decisions about their children, just as grandparents made the decisions when they were the parents.

Unless they are truly abusive to their children, the parents of your grandchildren have the God-given right to restrict or remove access as they see best. Whether or not you accept that is your choice, but it doesn't change the outcome. -- otherone

Be Persistent

Grandparents are often advised to write a letter of apology to the parents of their grandchildren.

Those who want to try this strategy should refrain from making excuses or arguing one's own case.  Also, whether the apology is made in writing or verbally, more than one attempt may be necessary before you break through. 

Hold on, people. You have to be patient to the nth degree. Don't stop reaching out to your son or daughter. Don't be demanding. Let your child know that you don't know where things went so bad, but you are willing to listen without argument or judgement. And do just that. -- devastatedmimi

Don't Overlook the Parents' Feelings

Grandparents are also advised that it's not all about the grandchildren. It's important for grandparents to maintain bonds with their adult children, and their spouses need love, too.

Make sure you show the son- or daughter-in-law some love and have some one-on-one time too. You need to bond. -- Kayla

Special Issues of Mothers and Daughters

Some readers feel that the mother-daughter relationship is particularly fraught. In fact, some researchers have observed that women tend to be more deeply entangled in family disputes than men. Still, woman-to-woman difficulties can be overcome, especially if both sides are willing.

Women and their daughters have a disconnect out of some kind of hurt or deep heartache. I  researched why my daughter is so distant. One website I found said 75% of daughters that were counseled said that they just wanted their mother to listen. If you begin fresh with a new line of communication with your daughter, hopefully it will lead to much much brighter things for you. For example, maybe the beautiful face of a grandchild? Building your relationship with your own child will build a bridge to your grandbaby.

-- devastatedmimi

Strategies to Avoid

While sincere apologies and repeated efforts can bear fruit, grandparents should avoid the appearance of desperation, one grandmother suggests. Begging, pleading and attempting to arouse sympathy are also tactics that can backfire, because they can make grandparents look weak or unstable.

Do not beg. That's when they know that you may be desperate. And absolutely don't try to buy the ability to see them. That's blackmail. If you get to see them, take the time, but don't let them make you feel guilty or unloving because you're not at their beck and call. If they offer you time, by all means take it. But you also have lives. Sitting around waiting is unhealthy. -- devastatedmimi

Avoid Difficulties Instead of Mending Them

Like many situations, grandparent estrangement is better avoided than mended.

The early days of grandparenting are crucial. New grandparents may be so eager to bond with a grandchild that they aren't respectful of the new parents' needs and they cause a rift that could have been avoided. Grandparents should strive to help out without taking over.

You have to respect your child's parenting and authority. Give the family space and time to be a family, and just love your grandchild. My mother-in-law always dropped by as she pleased. I had to hide in my room and pretend I wasn't home. I just had a baby and wanted time to learn myself how to mother and to adjust to being a parent. We have come a long way since then. She is an amazing woman and I love her. We were both just learning and adjusting, but she realized she couldn't always hold the reins and we need our space and respect for our parental authority. -- Kayla

Rewards of Dealing With Grandparent Estrangement

As painful as estrangement can be, wise grandparents can gain from the experience of repairing family relationships. Lessons learned can be applied to other aspects of life.

I have learned how to take the high road in all trying situations, which has made me wiser from the experience. -- devastatedmimi

Additional Resources

Although advice from those who have been there can be helpful, estranged grandparents may need more advice and a concrete plan. These resources may help: