My son married a woman he met overseas and eventually moved to her country and a city near where her parents live. She was cool to us from the start but he said we imagined it.
They had a son, we travelled to be with them, but her behaviour was even chillier. Our son said we just didn’t understand her and we should try harder.
Over six years, she’s rarely answered our friendly emails asking about their life and our grandson.
Even our son rarely sent any news of him – but we did get photos of his first birthday, and his outing at two to the zoo.
But when we travelled there to see them with plenty of notice, they were “too busy” for more than two visits, each lasting only one hour.
Now age five, the boy isn’t allowed to see us weekly on FaceTime and Skype as we requested because “it upset him” the one time we tried it.
Our son won’t acknowledge that he’s shut us out or answer why. Our daughter only rarely has contact with him, and also can’t fathom why he’s so uninterested in his own family.
We had a happy home when they were growing up, my daughter assures this is so.
What can we do to have a connection with our grandson? Is there any legal course to pursue to insist on grandparents’ rights?
You’re not alone in this searing experience with grandparent alienation. Over the years, I’ve received numerous email questions about similar situations.
There are even peer-support groups such as Alienated Grandparents Anonymous (AGA) with presence in Canada, 50 states in the USA, and 19 countries worldwide.
In healthy relationships, the norm for grandparent-grandchild relationships is warm, encouraging, and supportive to the child. In return, most grandparents thrive on the love, trust and tremendous pleasure their grandchildren provide, like a gift in older years.
But with alienation, there’s a loss that creates an irresolvable grief, because the living child is being kept unreachable.
Your son and daughter-in-law are in the position of “gatekeepers,” yet there are rules and controls they use to keep the child from you, without their giving reasons you can accept.
You can try the legal route to understand your rights. In Canada, grandparents can apply to the court and try to show that it’s in the best interests of the child for them to have access rights, or even custody.
In the United States, all grandparents have rights in some circumstances, to be awarded court-mandated visitation with their grandchildren. (Here too, the best interests of the child apply).
However, the relevant laws vary from state to state and you’d need a family lawyer’s advice.
The fact that your grandchild is living in a different country altogether, likely creates difficulties to enforce the law from North America.
Meanwhile, I urge you and your husband and your daughter too, to visit an AGA group in your area.
You’ll hear what other grandparents (and families) have found useful to help them through this painful situation and also hear some practical suggestions on how to attempt a reunion, if that becomes possible.
I’ve personally heard from grandparents who never gave up hope and eventually had contact with an older child who reached out.
I’ve also heard from grandparents who felt they had to simply accept the situation because it was too hard on them emotionally to keep trying.
FEEDBACK Regarding the perception that men get called out for cheating far more than women (August 31):
Reader #1 – “Trust me, women cheat. My wife of ten years cheated last year and left me and our ten-year-old daughter, to be with her boyfriend from work.
“But there is life beyond cheaters.
“My mind is clear and I am happy, and my daughter no longer has someone trying to over-control her (usually ending in yelling).
“We both had our parts in the split, but after my ex always reminding me that if I “ever cheated on her” she would walk out, she CHEATED!
“Life goes on guys, use this as a chance to be happy.”
Reader #2 – “Affairs happen and hopefully end, but they still affect the marriage. It’s important for the couple and their family to forgive and go on with their life but the hurt party never forgets.”
Tip of the day:
Alienated grandparents should keep trying ways to re-unite with grandchildren, unless the pain and loss becomes harmful to their health and well-being.