It’s every grandparent’s worst nightmare. After years of caring for your loved ones, you find yourself separated from your grandchildren by a family conflict. At this difficult time, your mind is probably filled with worries.
First and foremost, you are concerned for your family. You don’t understand quite how things got to the point that they did and your emotions swing between guilt and anger, frustration and hope.
On a more practical level, you may wonder what your grandparents rights are. For example, do you have a right to play a part in your grandkids’ lives, even if you are not on great terms with your own kids?
To explore this important issue, I recently interviewed Donne Davis of the GaGa Sisterhood. Donne is the author of the book, “When Being a Grandmother Isn’t So Grand.” Through her work on her website, she has also heard from hundreds of women who have struggled to see their grandkids after a family crisis. As a result, she is uniquely qualified to help us understand the dynamics around family conflict and grandparents rights.
Obviously, everyone’s situation is unique, so, it is best to seek legal advice if you want to understand your grandparents rights. That said, I hope that you find our interview useful. At the very least, I hope that it helps you to know that you are not alone. Many other women have gone through similar situations and their advice can be extremely valuable as you try to put your family back together.
Donne starts by pointing out that families are more complicated than they used to be. We are geographically dispersed. Our kids are under an extreme amount of pressure as they try to balance their work, family and social commitments.
In many cases, views about how to raise a child have changed over the decades. In addition, we may not agree with the political or religious views of our in-laws. All of these factors can create tension and, eventually, lead to family conflict.
The role of “grandma” is also going through something of a metamorphosis. A few generations ago, grandparents were expected to drop everything and make their grandkids the center of their lives. Today, it is not unusual for women to work well into their 60s or 70s. In addition, unlike many of our grandparents, we have a diverse set of passions that we want to pursue in retirement.
The good news, says Donne, is that women are more willing than ever to discuss family issues and grandparents rights. As a result, they can support each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
Donne says that talking about the needs of your grandchild is essential to moving the conversation forward. You may not be able to agree on a number of specific issues, but, more than likely, everyone will agree that the child in question deserves a supportive and stable family.
As much as we may not want to hear it, as grandmas, our children have a great deal of control over whether we can see our grandkids. As a result, it often makes sense to swallow our pride and let them take the lead. This doesn’t mean that we need to agree with them. It just means that we need to be realistic about the family dynamic. If we want to play a part in our grandkids lives, we need to let our kids feel like they are in control.
As Lawyers.com says, “When it comes to making decisions for their children, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that parents have the final word.” In other words, parents have a lot of power and courts are reluctant to tell them how to raise their kids.
If you can’t find the right words, Donne says that you may want to try the following. Say to your kids, “I want to be a part of the team, so, please tell me what I need to do.” It may also help to reiterate that you understand the pressure that they are under and the difficult choices that they are being asked to make in their lives. When it comes to family conflicts, a little empathy goes a long way.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, some women find themselves completely separated from their grandkids. They say that they want to be a part of the team and they are told to sit on the bench. Their empathy is met with enmity. So, what can we do when reason fails?
Donne says that there are organizations that can help you to enforce your grandparents rights. For example, you can check out this guide from Grandparents.com or this one from Lawyers.com. However, speaking from personal experience, she warns that this approach should only be used as a last resort.
I hope that you find this interview useful. Please take a few minutes to join the conversation below so that we can learn from each other’s experiences.
Have you gone through a situation where you have been separated from your grandkids? What advice would you give to another woman who is in a similar situation?