We all dream of that day, the day we will be reunited with our children/grandchildren.
It will be amazing, holding these children in our arms, arms that have felt so empty for so long, will soon be filled with love.
Is the reality like this?
For many no, it isn’t, those heady days can be short lived.
It is a journey of ups and downs, the relationship you once had has gone and you have to start all over again.
Everyone has to get to know each other again.
If you have been estranged/alienated for many years, how on earth do you parent/grandparent?
If you are fortunate enough to have had a healthy ongoing relationship with all family members, you all grow up together.
As a parent, we learn on the job, day by day, learning with our children. Understanding our children a little more day by day, and they equally get to know us.
If you remove that journey of learning, between parent and child, it is riddled with pitfalls.
Should I speak to them everyday, should I let the children/grandchildren contact us, when they want to?
I don’t think there is an easy answer.
If we smother the children/grandchildren, that could be a real turn off, if we distant ourselves a little it may feel as though we aren’t trying hard enough.
I often say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, and it is. We strive to be the perfect parent/grandparent, but maybe that is were we get it wrong. No-one is perfect, we make constant mistakes, it is what we do with those mistakes that matter, we must learn from them.
When reconciled, listen to the children/grandchildren, be led by them. Ask them what they want from this brand new relationship.
Of course the children/grandchildren, need to be pro-active as well, all relationships need to be two way , we all need to respect one an-others point of view and sometimes agree to disagree.
After many years of being apart, so much has happened in all of our lives, our families have probably grown and the dynamics will have changed as well over those years.
As the parent/grandparent reach out to your child/grandchild, ask them what they need you to do, what can we do to make this relationship work.
It will be time to think about our own behaviour, children/grandchildren may well have heard bad things about us over many years which will of course colour their opinions of us, we have a lot of work to do to prove we are good people.
It must never be about blame, as parent/grandparent it is up to us to keep reaching out to our child/grandchildren, whatever age the children are, they want to feel loved and valued. Keep telling them how much you love them, and yes sometimes, we have to apologise, even if we don’t know what we have done.
All too often parents/grandparents want to put the record straight, the injustice of everything that has happened in the past, can eat away at people, but you must put all of that stuff back where it belongs, in the past. What matters now is today.
Communicate in anyway that your child/grandchild wants, everyone has to feel comfortable.
This must not be about you, it is about the child, regardless of what age they are, don’t become defensive.
To enable healing your child/grandchild needs to feel listened to, without anyone judging them. There will be things said that hurt terribly but just listen, they have to be able to let their feelings out.
You may need to say something like,
I am so sorry you feel that way, help me to understand.
To be able to move forward, we must all acknowledge that we might be part of the problem, we all need to take responsibility. Always show empathy.
The child/grandchild will need time and space, don’t say stuff like,
I was so depressed when you were not around and not hearing from you, you have no idea what I have been through.
Saying that sort of thing will make them feel guilty, and question whether they want to build this new relationship. After all, it was never their fault in any way that estrangement/alienation occurred, it was the adults in their lives who caused it. It is up to the adults to put it right.
Take this slowly, we have to be patient with one another.
To regain a broken relationship can take months and in some cases years, they don’t mend overnight.
If your child/grandchild is now an adult, recognise that fact, they are individuals in their own right, they are living independent lives and must be allowed to continue to do so. Never offer advice unless it is asked for.
Above all else, remember that your child/grandchild loves both their parents and grandparents, they want to have them all in their lives, they want a mum, dad, gran, grandad, half brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.
They want a family. to love them and for them to love.