Families can be complex and you might have found yourself in an unfortunate situation where access to your grandchildren is limited or denied. When conflict takes place and relationships break down, it’s important from the child’s point of view that their relationships with adults are maintained.
In the UK, the sad truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren but there are steps you can try to build bridges and find solutions before you might consider seeking legal advice or going to court.
Talk it through
It’s essential to remember that you and the parents should put the wellbeing of the child at the heart of any discussion. When speaking with your children or children-in-law, try to remain calm and avoid attributing blame. This is important to facilitate moving forward and enabling the rest of the family to be more constructive in working out what happens next.
Whether you meet face-to-face, speak over the telephone or contact the parent in writing, let them know that you miss your grandchildren and the relationship you used to have or could have. If you live close by, remind them of the practical benefits you can offer such as picking the children up from school or having them to stay over on a weekend.
If your grandchildren are older, you could suggest that they are missing out on a sense of their own family history and identity which comes with knowing and sharing stories about how their grandparents were brought up and who else makes up their wider family.
Losing contact because of the death of a parent
Losing contact with a grandchild through the death of a parent can cause great anguish amongst grandparents and other family members. This is particularly true when it’s your child who has died.
In this situation, you could talk to the remaining parent about how the wider family can help to make up for this loss. If a child loses a parent and then doesn’t see their grandparents it can feel like a double loss – for both sides.
Though it may be hard to accept that the other parent may move on and remarry, remember that the grandchildren are still the priority. A lifelong bond and relationship is possible to maintain.
If you have explored all routes of communication but feel you are getting nowhere, professional help could be your next option. Family mediation can be a way forward, as it can resolve serious family disputes by focussing on the future. Working with a neutral third party can save stress, time and money by allowing you and your family to find your own solutions and reach an agreement. All parties have to agree to take part so if you feel that channels of communication are starting to shut down and you’re no closer to finding a solution, it’s a good idea to suggest mediation before they completely close.
For more information on what to do when you have lost contact with your grandchildren, visit Grandparents Plus.
Grandparents Plus is the national charity (England and Wales) which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.