Susan Hoffman Q&A: "How Do I Mend Fences, So I Can See My Grandchild?"

Grandparents' rights expert Susan Hoffman answers your pressing questions about family relationships.

By Susan Hoffman
Image of Susan Hoffman
Courtesy of Susan Hoffman
Susan Hoffman

Reader Question:
Over the summer, my son and I got into a fight when I said it was a bad idea for their 14-month-old to be drinking pop. We haven’t spoken since, and I haven’t seen my granddaughter, either. I miss her more than anything. What do I do? How do I mend fences and get back in contact with them? I’m willing to admit I was wrong, if that helps.

Susan says: Well-meaning grandparents often step over parental boundaries without realizing it. While it may seem perfectly logical to give advice to our own children, they don’t usually see it that way, especially when it comes to child rearing. Parents have what is known as parental authority, i.e. the right to raise a child as they see fit, and grandparents must learn as quickly as possible to respect that right. When it comes to giving advice, solicited or otherwise, don’t do it.

Open communication could have prevented the problem from escalating, but instead the parents chose to get rid of the person rather than the problem. Sadly this is often the case.

Keep in mind that your granddaughter misses you just as much as you miss her, and that you will do whatever is necessary to mend that fence. Expectations can often get the best of us so If you don’t receive the response that you want don’t give up.

Admitting that you are wrong will definitely help; you made a mistake and are willing to assume responsibility for it. I suggest sending a letter reflecting your feelings of remorse with an offer to make amends and a promise to do better. Remember to be specific about the behaviors that created the alienation, otherwise it becomes an empty apology. Adding a “peace” offering, such as a Starbucks gift card or something you know that they enjoy can’t hurt.

Have a question for Susan Hoffman? Email us at expertadvice@grandparents.com.

Susan Hoffman is the creator and director of Advocates for Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a charitable non-profit  501©(3) organization, the purpose of which is to provide resources to families, specifically grandparents, experiencing visitation issues with grandchildren. She is also the author of Grand Wishes: Advocating To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Bond and A Precious Bond: How To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship, as well as the documentary filmmaker behind A Precious Bond. She sponsored a bill in California on behalf of grandparent rights that became law in 2007, and currently lives in Newport Beach, California. Susan is not a lawyer. Her advice is for informational purposes only.

Comments

Cliff notes version: My daughter got mad about (??? something in 2004) and stopped us from seeing the grandchildren. I sent letters that said I was sorry for anything I had done to upset them, cause her hurt or angry even from childhood (not that I'm aware of doing anything). We continued to send cards, presents for every holiday and birthdays. Then due to huge falling out (between sister in laws not with us but each other) we went to see them in Feb. of last yr and hubby (not her father) spoke with her. She allowed us to see them on the steps and invited us to come to grandson's baseball games. I went every time she ask, however, hubby missed three due to headache. Then he went to one on a Fri nite after work near our home (I stayed at home). Then next day I had meeting lasted long time & called him (at the field) and he told me to come.

I did and was talking to one of the other mother's. I turned around and daughter was standing there furious about something!!!!!!! What I have no idea nor did she EVER share. So I asking what are you wanting 3 times. Then I ask do want us to leave YESSSSSSSSSSSSSs she barks. So we did. My hubby sent her a letter to ask what was wrong and to work things out whatever it was that was bothering her. She REFUSED the letter and sent it back. \\

We have be left to wonder. We waited for some time for a conversation. Then gave up and just attended games and never spoke to her however, cheered for their team. We are friends with the other parents and grandparents.

Note: in the last several weeks granddaughter who will be 14 in Sept (you GET that age however she was EXTREMELY shy last year) has said the following things to me when hubby not present & most recently in bathroom at last game: I don't like you! my reply: why would that be? her response: because your ugly (not nice but clearly a teenage response to act ugly). Then lastly in bathroom I said to her we have no idea why your mother is upset with us however we will love you and your brother forever. Her reply: you are NOT related to us and then she called me a b_ _ _ _. My response was that is very unbecoming language for a young lady such as yourself and I turned and walked out.
I am so tired to stay on high road as I can identify every blade of grass. Clearly her mother has told her SOMETHING and us nothing. You can't fix what you don't know. This has been very very difficult for both of us especially since this is the only thing I have ever truly wanted in my life. To be a good Nana. I made a point to NEVER give, offer nor suggest any advice re raising them even when I drove almost 90 miles round trip to keep them for free when they were little.

I will be addressing this latest remark to my daughter as this is rude no matter what she thinks or has told them. I will not raise my voice nor use bad language. My hubby will ask her why she has chooses not to allow us to visit with them nor address whatever is wrong by talking like normal adults. My words will be as follows: I have no idea why you won't speak to me, however, clearly you have spoken to your children and told them something to turn them against us. Otherwise R would not have said: I don't like you because your ugly and we are not related and you are a b_ _ _ _ to my face. I am so sorry you feel this is acceptable behavior for anyone. You are the model for your children. Can you please model caring, forgiveness, communication and love for their sake and yours? Then I have to walk away and let her act however she chooses to as I clearly have no ability to help her as she is grown and will decide her behavior or lack thereof leading to directly impacting her children either in a positive way or negative way (which has what I believe is exactly what she has chosen to do or I would not be getting this response/behavior from someone whom I have only given love, caring, cards and presents in the years gone by.

Help how can I make the pain of not being in their lives not affect me so emotionally at
Christmas and other times during the year? Judy in TN

jkforrest on 2013-07-10 20:04:39

Speaking as a mother/grandmother/mother-in-law, myself, the above is excellent advice, in my opinion. And the additional comments that BlueEyedGirl made are right on target, too, I beliieve, based on what I've seen and what I've read in Mothers-in-Law Anonymous and some of the other groups in the Community (see very-top-middle of this page),.

Unfortunately, I think some posters are confusing the issue of whether or not "Grandma" was right about the soda pop with that of whether or not she was right to give unsolicited advice. Like many others here, I totally agree with her about the pop. It was giving her son that advice, without, I take it, his asking for it, that was the problem. Not to mention continuing to argue, instead of letting it go once they saw they disagreed, though that, of course, is on both of them.

Even so, it does seem odd that this one argument led to the grandmother's being cut off. But we don't know what words were said; some of them may have been very hurtful. Also, I agree with MamatoMM, that this may have been a "last straw" situation. The dad may have asked Grandma before - perhaps many times - not to criticize his parenting or give unsolicited advice. And so when she did it again, this time he said, in effect, "Enough!" and pushed her out of their lives. Hopefully, if she follows the advice given, that will only be temporary.

And though I don't have anywhere near the experience in dealing with these issues that Ms. Hoffman has, I'm not sure if "open communication" would have been an answer here. Well, okay, maybe if they could do it w/o arguing and letting tempers flare! But IF - and please note, I'm only saying "IF" - the dad had already let the grandmother know several times that he didn't want her weighing in on parenting choices and she did, anyway, then he may have concluded that "communication" wasn't working.

Maybe not. Obviously, we don't know if unwanted advice had ever been an issue between them before or not. But one of the problems we often see in the Community area is that of people saying that the more they tried to discuss and explain, etc., the more the other person argued, etc.

Debbie, if you're reading this, are you aware that some parents, today, take a temporary "break" from a grandparent (or any other adult) that they're angry at? It's possible that this is what your son does, each time he's upset with you, for whatever reason. Often, just as you describe, the break is longer each time. Chances are, he'll reconnect with you - and hopefully, he has by now - this time, just as he did the last time. But please try to figure out what tends to set him off, if you can, and avoid that in the future, so that, perhaps, you won't reach the point where he takes a break that is indefinite.

Forgotten2, your story is a little jumbled, IMO, but I know it's hard, with such a painful story, to get it all down clearly in such little space. My heart goes out to you and your grandchildren.

Meanwhile, as a GP.com moderator, I'm especially happy to see so many people say they appreciate this site. But I'm concerned about those of you who have your full name and actual email addy in your username. For greater privacy, you might want to change that. If so, just click on your username at the top-right of this page and change it where shown. (You'll have to log out and then log back in again to see the change.)

rosered135 on 2013-07-08 22:26:17

I just read the book "a Precious Bond". This is most certainly a great find and it has a vast amount of helpful information for grandparents. I am the grandmother of three. Two of my grandchildren are my daughter and son-in-law and the third one belongs to my son and his ex-girlfriend. I seen a lot of mistakes that I have made even with my daughter's two children especially when it comes to giving unsolicited advice. This is a humbling experience for me but I don't want to be alienated from any of my grandchildren.Glad that I found this website.

rbl1957 on 2013-05-29 08:39:41

daughter was married and they were involved with CPS several times in Arizona. She filed for sole custody because father was being abusive to children and neglect. Before going to court she was arrested again and was already on probation and went to prison. I filed against her wishes for guardianship for the children and was awarded through Arizona. She would preferred the children to go to foster care. The children have been in my life since they were born. Her and her husband lived with me until they started on drugs again 2003.She went to prison in 2007 and as promised I took the children to visit at Perryville every other weekend. When she got out she moved in with me and the children. After a couple flings in the two and half months she hooked up with a ex drug user from her past. Eight months later she is pregnant. She said she wanted to move so we all moved to Colorado. After getting there for six months she wanted custody of the children even thought she still was not acting like a mom. She stated she could not be Mom as long as I was there.
So the children and I got apartment less than quarter mile from her and her new husband. They have never been honest with his parents about anything and this caused a lot of problems. Her new mother in-law is very controlling but does it through her husband. Daughter has never on her own supported her children it's always been up to someone else. They took me to court and the judge was only concerned that her new husband had a job and could support them. She has never got any counseling in prison or after. The court gave me visitation since the children and I had a awesome relationship. In fact it's the most drama free time of their life. They are not 10-11. She has always been in violation of the court order from Arizona. The new mother now has convinced them to move back to Arizona because she has another baby and this is her first grandchild. My daughter now does not let me see the grandchildren that I protected for her until she got out of prison. She bad mouths me on face book and to anyone who will listen. He new husband and his family made it to bad for his first wife that she killed herself according to the ex's mother. They do things like let the children believe that I hate them. The have my grandchildren so confused poor granddaughter is so angry. They blocked my number from grandsons phone which I pay for. Mothers day granddaughter invited me over on Saturday I did not go because I felt a adult should be the one to invite me I explained that to my granddaughter and she is mad she is taking it as I did not want to see her. Truth is unless I had proof I was invited by adult don't trust them they would not call police. This is what they do to make children feel bad. This is not the same granddaughter I knew three months ago. They threaten to send her back to live with her real father who abused her and she is very afraid of. They whole problem in all of this is her new husbands mother. He is the golden child and what ever he wants he gets as long as he makes mommy happy. Don't know why daughter is so hateful to me though she is very jealous of the relationship that the children and I had I have tried to explain that was normal. She hates me but no surprise they only time she came around since she was 21 is to babysit so she could go party. They know I can't afford to move I am senior and already lost my home in Arizona and have limited income. I believe this was all planned from the start to get me out of the children's life's. His family does not want any of my daughter to have a relationship with her family. They try to do the same with their other son but he is independent and does not play their game so as far as they our concerned he's out. They bad his wife and honestly I have been to their home and meet his wife and she is very nice. It's sad that the other son knows his own mother shows that she cares about other son better.

forgotten2 on 2013-05-18 08:44:07

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