Susan Hoffman Q&A: "My Son Is Turning My Granddaughter Against Me!"

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

By Susan Hoffman
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Courtesy of Susan Hoffman
Susan Hoffman

Reader Question: My son and his family were living with me, and moved out of my house after a disagreement. My granddaughter stopped talking to me after that, and even posted ugly things about me on Facebook. I still see her often around the neighborhood, and she ignores me. I miss her. Should I try to talk to her? How do I repair our relationship?

It sounds like you are the victim of what I refer to as GAS, or Grandparent Alienation Syndrome. In your situation, the parents have joined forces to draw the child into their campaign against you. This is a powerful tactic, and a difficult one to combat. Much has been written on the subject, so relevant that I devoted an entire chapter to the issue specifically about grandparents in Grand Wishes.

As for repairing your relationship, that may take time, but an effective start would be a cheerful greeting whenever you see her instead of ignoring her presence. A simple wave, smile, and verbal "hello" without expectation can help relieve tense moments. What you may want to ignore, however is her Facebook posts; it's best not to give them any power.

I suggest acknowledging her birthday and holidays with cards and gifts (unless those gestures are conditional upon her behavior towards you). Teach through example. Let her see someone who represents kindness and generosity of spirit — someone who is able to provide unconditional love. Hopefully, it will tilt the scale and achieve some balance.

Last, repairing the problems and reconnecting with the parents would be the best possible solution for the situation. You will most likely be the one to take the initiative, so get ready to assume responsibility for making behavioral changes.

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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.


I am going through a similar issue now. My daughter and her family lived with me for several months, and after an argument with my grandchildren's father, he is trying to turn the older of the two, my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter against me. He makes her call me "The Dragon Lady," and she does so he won't get mad at her. She and I were very, very close before the argument, almost a year ago. My grandson is only 1 1/2 and doesn't understand. My daughter doesn't want to make more problems, and she believes he will "get over it" in time. My 84 year old dad, is getting more and more frail with each passing day. My 83 year old mother has to do a lot for him, and now, because I am not allowed to watch the children, she has to watch the active great-grandkids whenever my daughter is not able to bring them to daycare. This is killing my family. Holidays are filled with stress and tears (mostly mine and my sweet dad's, who can't stand to see me crying). My once close, tight-knit family, is falling apart. I worry that each holiday will be my parents' last, and they will not be able to enjoy the family like they used to. I am an elementary school teacher with many years of experience and first-hand knowledge of child development. I am extremely concerned how this will affect both of my grandchildren, but especially my granddaughter, who is keenly aware of the conflict between her dad and myself. I am seeing a counselor to help me manage the stress, sadness and depression that has taken over, but unfortunately, without the support of my family (even just ONE to be able to step up and try to bring some sense into this angry young man's head), the weekly sessions are only helping me to survive day to day. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks... on 2014-11-28 21:36:23

P.S. Read back further and saw GE's suggestion of repairing the relationship with the parents first. I agree that's a great idea, if it's possible. A grandparent is more likely to be able to reconnect with a grandchild if they are able to resume their relationship with the parents. But I realize, in some cases, that ship has already sailed.

rosered135 on 2014-03-07 12:54:15

I totally feel for the grandmother in this story. Also, if it is a matter of GAS, I feel for her even more. And I love the idea of combatting this syndrome by showing "kindness and generosity of spirit.

But I have to agree with MrsKitty, below, that w/o context, it's difficult to know if GAS is the problem. If the grandmother's son and family lived in her home, for a while, as generous as it was for her to let them do that, there's even more chance that some serious conflicts may have arisen. The "disagreement" that prompted son and family to leave may have been the final one in a series of escalating quarrels. Or not. Again we don't have that kind of context here so we dont' know.

No doubt, it's sad that the granddaughter has become involved in the conflict. And I know it's possible that the parents have "joined forces" to turn her against her grandmother. But if granddaughter is old enough to be posting on FB, she's probably old enough to have understood what was going on. And if's not unusual for kids to see a situation through their parents' eyes. Or to ask questions and believe their parents' answers, whether you or I would think the parents were right or wrong.

Nor do I think we can overlook the possibility that the conflict/disagreeement may have involved the granddaughter. It could be that the grandmother allowed/didn't allow her to do things her parents said she couldn't/could. Or ignored an allergy that the parents told them granddaughter had, believing they were wrong. Or... who knows? If the issue centered around the granddaughter, that's all the more reason, in my opinion, that she might have been aware of it and lined up with her parents.

Maybe not. But again, w/o more information, we can only guess.

Whatever happened, of course, it's sad all around. And I hope they all find a way to reconcile happily.

rosered135 on 2014-03-07 12:50:33

What if grandma is cooking meth in the basement? Is it still "Grandparent Alienation Syndrome" if the parents don't want her around and tell the kid to stay away? The expert has absolutely no context, yet she assumes that the child is being told to stay away from the grandparent for no good reason. That is a huge assumption.

MrsKitty on 2014-03-06 18:50:32

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