We all have a picture in our heads of what it will be like when we are reunited, it is what we all long for. We imagine that first hug after so many years, it will be perfect.
Is that how it really is?
I often hear from grandparents who have been reunited, but it isn’t going quite as they had dreamt of. The grandchild seems distant, sometimes rude and dismissive.
Is it any wonder?
However they have become embroiled, in the horrible world of estrangement, they need time and patience.
Listening recently to two estranged adult alienated children, I think I now understand a bit better.
It is only by listening to these adult children that we can learn how best to help them.
The journey of Parental/Grandparent estrangement/alienation is a long haul, sometimes you feel you take one step forward and three steps back.
This is the time we must try and put ourselves in their shoes, if we are going to be able to understand their behaviour, we must listen and observe.
An estranged/alienated child can feel as though they are suffocating and they sometimes just need to take a breath of fresh air.
Just being in the same room is hard.
They need to know they can trust you, for in many cases, they have lost trust in all adults.
One adult grandchild told me how they wanted so badly to reconnect but found it all so overwhelming, that they had to just back off for a while.
Sending texts or talking on the phone is one thing, meeting face to face is quite a different thing altogether.
At the end of a call saying ‘love you,’ is almost a throwaway comment, but when those you have been apart from actually say ‘I love You,’ to your face is something very different, and quite scary for a young person.
That isn’t to say don’t tell them how much you love them, they do really want to hear you say it, just allow it to come naturally and allow time for it to be taken in.
Another adult child said that when his grandad said how proud he was of his grandson, he was amazed, and said to his grandad,
Are you really?
They all say the same thing, that they want to concentrate on this new relationship and not on the past and feelings of rejection, the fear is always there, a fear of further rejection.
If you are beginning your journey with grandchildren in their teenage years, don’t forget how teenagers behave, just because they are reunited with you, they are still struggling with that awful age of not being children but not actually being grown up either. Those years are hard under normal circumstances, but in this situations it is even harder.
Young adults, quite rightly are focussed on their future, it may seem that they don’t care. They do, but they are just doing what young adults do, they are preparing for big changes in their lives, maybe going off to college or uni, and just because we have suddenly reappeared doesn’t mean that they should digress from their plans.
All of the adult children have said, the most important thing for us to do , is too ‘Just be there.’
After years of being apart, to be able too, just be there seems pretty magical to me!
As I said this journey of reconciliation is not easy, it is not easy for us, but much more importantly it is not easy for the grandchildren either.
We need to be patient, compassionate and understanding.