Throughout history, Grandparents have always enjoyed a special relationship with their grandchildren and it’s no myth that they are the ones who can naughtily spoil the kids rotten. In more recent years, with both parents working and childcare costs excruciatingly expensive, nans and grandads have taken on the role of childminders too. In the past, they were called upon to babysit so that their own adult children could enjoy a night out, but now some work full-time as carers, looking after their children’s children from babies to doing the school-runs and holiday cover. As any parent knows, looking after children is not for the feint-hearted. Add age to the pot, along with the fact that these grannies are knowledgeable, have done it all before, and are often cost free, doing it for love, grandparents are really an incredible support.
Of course, the relationship between your grandchildren changes and develops over time and as the children get older it may seem that you see them less as they develop their own friendships, hobbies and interests. In these days of ever-changing technology, it is difficult to keep up with youngsters and for the majority of the time, as they become teenagers you may find it difficult to grasp what they are actually talking about. It is normal to feel out of touch.
What if I’m finding grandparenting challenging?
Looking after your grandchildren can be very challenging with regards to your relationship with your own son or daughter and in-laws. On one hand you are helping them out and on the other you may feel conflict when comments are passed about your grandparenting skills. You may also feel that you didn’t do it quite right the first time around and see looking after the grandkids as the opportunity to have a second stab at parenthood. If things are not going your way, you may feel upset and it’s very difficult to stand back if you think your own children are not doing things quite right with their children. Try not to criticise, even if you have played a huge part in their upbringing. If you are really struggling seeking the advice of a counsellor may help you to deal with issues from the past. Your grandchildren should be enjoyed.
However, bigger problems occur if there really are serious issues with your own children and their little ones. What do you do if you believe the children are being mistreated? You cannot keep these matters to yourself and could be in serious trouble with the law if you did. The best thing to do is to ring your local social services and discuss your concerns with them.
Dealing with parent-child conflict
The grandchildren can become very anxious and confused if there is a dispute between grandparents and their own parents. Sustained conflict can lead to no-contact between grandchildren and their beloved grandparents. Children will always notice that something is wrong and these kinds of issues can put a huge strain on family relationships. Young children may worry about why they cannot see Granny and Gramp and teenagers may be angry as they want to make their own decisions. They can feel split between two camps as they do not want to upset either party.
What are my rights to see my grandchildren?
So, what happens if your adult child gets divorced or separates and suddenly you seem to have lost all rights to see your grandchildren? Is there such a thing as Grandparents Rights?
Sadly, Grandparents do not have an automatic right to see or have contact with their grandchildren, however, family courts do recognise the important role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives. It is therefore extremely rare for a court to decline access unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.
There are cases where grandchildren have been adopted, but the grandparents have still been granted contact and access through the family courts. Only those with parental responsibility, so step-parents, guardians or parents can make an application for a Contact Order. Whilst their rights are somewhat limited, grandparents can apply for permission (which is known as “leave”) of the court to grant them permission to apply for a Contact Order. In other words, they can ask the court to bend the rules and allow them to apply for a Contact Order. The court will consider several matters such as the applicant’s connection with the child, the nature of the application for contact and whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way or form.
Applying for a contact order
Following a successful application, grandparents can apply for a Contact Order through the court. However, if one or both of the parent’s object, then the matter will go to a full hearing in which evidence will be presented and heard. As is the same with divorce, if you arrive at this stage, it is vital that you seek legal advice as the court will want to understand why you wish to have contact, so a good case will need to be presented. It may be that with a court case pending, parents come to their senses and an amicable conclusion can bring the issue to an end.
If your grandchildren are going through any tricky situation, such as their parents getting divorced, a bereavement or dealing with bullying, be supportive and ensure you tell them how much you love them. Be a good listener and try to encourage the lines of communication between your grandkids and their parents; help parents and their children to talk. This can be particularly important when teenager hormones are flying around. It is inevitable that things can get tricky around this age and often, grandparents are who kids turn to for support as they feel slightly outside of the family, but not. Grandparents can be fabulous mediators and bring a positive outcome to family disputes.