“Every house needs a grandmother in it.” – Louisa May Alcott
Grandparents are an important part of a child’s life. Yet, when parents separate, it is not a relationship that is prioritised by the legal system or even by parents themselves, as there are so many pressing matters to settle. However, grandparents may lose or see access to their grandchildren diminished as a result of separation and find themselves at a loss about what to do, caught between the needs of their own child, the parent, their grandchildren and their own.
Meet Patricia, grandmother of three preschool children from her son’s two previous relationships. The separations were complex: one absent mother, drug use, accusations of domestic violence and events that required police involvement and have to be resolved through the courts.
Patricia is very anxious. She is worried that her son is still using drugs and as a result has doubts about his ability to parent his two oldest children who live with him. She is most distraught by the possibility that she may lose access to her grandchildren should the courts rule against her son. She has also not seen her youngest grandchild for more than six months and the relationship with his mother is fraught with distrust, animosity and conflict. She has been living with her son for some time to help him look after the children. Yet the help is not welcome. Her son is resentful. Conversations about his situation and the children’s care end up in arguments and hurtful words.
Patricia feels her only option to secure a stable future for her two oldest grandchildren is to apply to the courts for sole guardianship. This is a difficult decision. It means challenging her own son and effectively stating ‘I don’t think you a fit parent’. It is also a financial investment that will cripple her and her husband.
She is referred to Amily® by her family lawyer.
In the first two coaching conversations Patricia comes to understand the scope of the challenges her family is facing and starts to organise her thoughts and prioritise them. Where there was overwhelm, there is now an acceptance of what she can and cannot control.
She also realises that she is trying to help her son in everything he is going through: from caring for the children, to finding a school, driving him to and from work, finding a more suitable place for them to live, engaging lawyers and other support for his court matters. This is not only an impossible burden she places herself under, but, most importantly, she is taking on responsibilities which are not hers but her son’s. She shifts her efforts to focusing only in matters that directly affect the children.
The conversations Patricia has with her son are often difficult and end in disagreement and distrust. He says he does not want her help, she feels hurt because all she wants is to help. She realises that when she talks to her son about his life she is often, without wanting to, reprimanding him for the choices he has made and warning him about future choices. She is talking to her child, instead of the adult he now is. With the coach she learns to take a different stance in her conversations – she shifts from telling her son what to do, to listening and just being there to support him. It is not easy. It is a new skill for her and her son is not always responsive. It gets better though. She writes him a letter.
Patricia’s son and his family still have to resolve many issues and there are court processes that need to be brought to closure. Yet Sandra is no longer feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Her son is rebuilding his life, caring for his children and she is able to see them regularly and be a grandmother.
Working with an Amily® coach she has been able to
- shift her relationship with her son, one conversation at a time
- avoid the conflict and financial cost of a court battle for custody and the damage it would have caused to her relationship with her son and her grandchildren
- continue to be part of her grandchildren’s lives
Patricia now feels better equipped to continue to support her son and his children and see these kids in a stable and secure family environment.
Are you ready to make the necessary changes to help your family thrive?
Your children will thank you!