Question

Dealing With an Estranged Grandchild

Question:

We wanted to ask you a question regarding our 17-year-old granddaughter. Since her parent’s divorce a few years ago, we’ve seen her experience anger, disobedience, running away, suicidal symptoms, and cutting off communication.

Do we continue reaching out to her? Should we let her have space? We miss her terribly and this whole thing has been very hard on our family.

Response:

I am sorry to hear about this situation in your family. I am sure it is hard to see the changes in your granddaughter and to be separated from her at this time.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly common scenario after a divorce. Your granddaughter is still relatively young, so there is a lot of time for her to consider her relationships with family members and seek a closer relationship in the future.

First and foremost, it sounds as if there are some mental health concerns that need to be addressed, specifically suicidal symptoms. Your daughter would be wise to seek the help of licensed medical and mental health professionals. Your family might also want to consult with a licensed marriage and family therapist to learn the best ways for you to cope with this unexpected situation.

Continue to reach out via emails, texts, letters, gifts, etc. When you communicate with her, continue to express your love for her and talk to her about what you see as her strengths. Tell her specifically what you miss about spending time with her. You want to communicate to her that she is a very important part of your lives.

Steer clear of making any judgmental statements about her father or her or trying to “fix” the situation. Reach out to her unless she tells you to stop. If she does, give her some space (maybe 6 months) and then try to re-engage with her.

Remember that it is normal for adolescents to distance themselves from their parents and grandparents when they are moving from adolescence into young adulthood even when there has not been a divorce or another troubling situation in the family. As young people grow and mature, they will often re-engage on their own. In the case of a divorce situation, it may take longer but the time you invested in her prior to the divorce is likely to be a powerful reminder of your love for her.

In the meantime, pray regularly about the situation and make sure that you are getting support to cope with this (hopefully) temporary loss. You might want to seek out supportive resources at church or in your community.

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