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Family Forum: Grand kids out in the Cold

So close but far apart.

QUESTION:

Some people go to court to gain the right to see their grandchildren. By their own choice my parents, who live in the next street, haven’t spoken to my two children (their grandchildren) now aged 10 and 13 in nearly three years.

This situation came about after my 77-year-old mother was caught telling lies to hide deceptive behaviour she’d engaged in with my sister. Sadly, my mother’s desire to avoid questions over her indiscretions currently outweighs her desire to talk to her grandchildren and my elderly father just intones “I have to support your mother”.

A paternal cousin did manage to get my parents to visit a psychologist (in February 2017) but it wasn’t productive as my mother refused to speak during the appointment and my father (a partial-paraplegic who requires prescription pain medication on a daily basis) just cried into his hands.

Any advice on this very true and sad situation would be welcome.

ANSWER:

When this type of conflict occurs in relationships the people involved will often have very different views of what has happened. There is also the reality that both sides will have a valid point to make. Some people believe in telling “white lies”, or “kind lies” because they don’t want to hurt others. Other people tell “untruths” because they fear the consequences that harsh reality may bring. Your mother may also think that you have no right to question her about what you see as her “indiscretions”.

At this stage it is important not to focus on “who is right and who is wrong”. Apportioning blame is not useful. Forgiveness and putting the past in the past is more important. This will involve you taking some of the responsibility for initiating healing in the relationship. As difficult as it may seem both sides need to swallow their pride even if they think they were not the person who started the problems.

Many conflicts are resolved by one party being brave enough to take the first step. You can express your regrets to your parents not for the cause of the relationship breakdown but for the outcome ie that everyone has allowed it to come to this low point. Make it clear that you are seeking forgiveness from both sides and reconciliation without blame for the sake of all concerned.

If your mother refuses to engage with you when you “offer an olive branch” then another idea is to encourage your children to initiate contact with their grandparents without you being directly involved. For example, you can help them to make a cake that they can deliver to your grandparents and use this to re-initiate contact. It is a very useful life skill to teach your children how to resolve conflict in positive and thoughtful ways. These are just some ideas and you may find it helpful to speak with a counsellor to discuss other approaches to creatively improve your immediate family’s relationship with your parents.

Submit Your Questions

Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

Have you got a question you’d like us to tackle?

Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

We treat communications in strict confidence except when the law demands otherwise, as in child abuse.

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