Everyone would love to be in a “perfect” family, where grandparents have close and loving relationships with their children and their grandchildren, and many people are lucky enough to have just that. For an increasing number of grandparents, however, maintaining contact with grandchildren can be extremely difficult following an acrimonious divorce or when a family moves away or emigrates.
Long Distance Relationships
If your grandchildren emigrate with their family, or move so far away that it’s not easy to see them regularly, hopefully you will still be on loving terms with their parents - in which case, the issue is just a practical one. It can be upsetting to think that you will only rarely see your grandchildren, but technology is a wonderful thing and can ride to the rescue these days.
Skype, the internet, email and social media are all wonderful ways of staying in touch with distant grandchildren, and of course there’s also the phone and good old fashioned letter writing too. If you’re not internet savvy, this is the perfect time to get some lessons (often free in local libraries and the like) or to ask a family member or friend to show you the ropes.
Much harder to deal with is when you are deliberately prevented from seeing your grandchildren, perhaps following a divorce or a family feud. This is an extremely distressing time all round, but it’s very important to stay calm and non-confrontational right from the start.
In the UK, grandparents have no legal right of access to their grandchildren. Their parents are allowed to stop them from seeing you, if they so choose. As a last resort, grandparents may apply to the family courts for leave to seek a contact order, but this is very complex, expensive and disruptive for the child - and of course, may impose further damage on already fractured family relationships. Court action should only be considered when you have tried absolutely everything else.
To begin with, simply let the parents know that you would still like to see your grandchildren, and that you are happy to fit in with whatever is convenient for them. Remember that the parents will be hurting too, for their own situation, and you won’t be the first priority in their minds at this time. Be patient - allow them several weeks or even a couple of months to get their own lives back in order.
Be neutral and non confrontational when you speak to the parents of your grandchildren. You may have your own ideas over who or what is to blame for the break up, but if you alienate either parent, you will make the situation worse. Stress how much you value both of the parents, and your grandchildren.
Even if you get nowhere with trying to reach an informal arrangement, keep trying. Write to your grandchildren on a regular basis and send them gifts at Christmas and birthdays; at the same time, write to the parents, keeping your letters positive and good natured, and always keeping the door open for them to contact you.
It can be very hard, emotionally, and very frustrating, and you will feel angry and hurt; you’re entitled to feel that way, but avoid doing anything to fan the flames. In most cases, patience will pay off in the end - but if the months pass without end, it may be time to consult a solicitor.