My daughter-in-law won’t let me see my grandchildren and it is breaking my heart.

Five years ago, I moved across the country to be near my family after the birth of my first grandchild. I had asked my son if he would be amenable to me living nearby, and helping out with the grandchild. He responded very positively. I watched my grandchild 3-4 times a week for the first couple years of her life, and then 1-2 times a week after the birth of my 2nd grandchild, with whom I also spent time. I’ve always tried to cultivate a friendly, positive relationship with my daughter-in-law. We’ve socialized, and planned activities together without my son. Fast forward to the present. My son and daughter-in-law are divorcing. I’ve offered to help my daughter-in-law financially, I’ve offered to help with the children, offered to pay for ballet lessons, camps, etc. However, my daughter-in-law refuses to let me see the grandchildren, tells me not to call the house. My heart is literally breaking. Don’t know how to try to reconcile with someone who is so angry with my son that her anger toward him apparently flows downhill to me. She doesn’t respond to phone calls, emails, or texts for weeks at a time. Then, after I’ve repeatedly attempted to contact her without receiving a response, she tells my son that I am crazy. She is opposing joint custody, and my son has limited visitation. A week ago, I found myself trembling so badly, and my heart was fluttering. I want to be loving. I pointed out to my daughter-in-law that continuity of loving relationships in the children’s lives were very important. She coldly responded that I was criticizing her ability to do what was in the children’s best interests. My granddaughter has called me crying, asking to visit. My grandson is fairly young, and less bonded to me. Now the children aren’t allowed to call. Please help. Due to the move across country, and the fact that I work from home, I am somewhat socially isolated here. The priority has been the family, and now the family has suddenly fallen apart.

This is a very difficult situation and I can understand your distress. Your analysis is probably correct. Your daughter-in-law is so angry with your son that she regards you as the enemy. All of your positive efforts are interpreted as hostile and interfering.

You have to back off and limit yourself to contacting her only once a week and then only in a very positive way. Your repeated efforts, positively intended, are being interpreted as interference.

A short, cheery 2-3 sentence email that makes no demands to see the children, just that you are thinking of them and willing to be of help to her, would be what I would recommend. It will likely take many weeks or months of this approach before you get a positive response. I suggest something like:

Hi Mary. I hope you and the children are doing OK. If there is anything I can do to help with the kids please let me know. Take care.

Or

Nice to see that Fall is soon upon us. I trust you and the children are enjoying it. Please let me know if there is something I can do to help you. Sincerely.

It is important that you find other social outlets. It will be impossible for you to stay healthy and not get depressed if you don’t develop friends and other activities.  For your own sake and the sake of your grand children, link up with others. Use your immense generosity to take time to support a neighbor or to volunteer at a local charity.

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