Why Do Grandparents Exploit?

Question: Dear Luise: My children have 4 sets of grandparents because of divorce and remarriage among my and my husband’s parents.  It is a very stressful situation to deal with because none of the grandparents maintain contact (they don’t call, write letters nor email) except for a card on the children’s birthdays and at Christmas.  Once in a while (every few years) they will use guilt and manipulative messages with us along the lines of when are we going to visit them, when are we going to drop the kids off for a week with them, why don’t we send them more pictures, etc… To be honest I am feeling burned out and used by all of them.  Nobody is supportive of my marriage nor do they ever ask how we’re doing.  They seem to want all the benefits of being a grandparent with none of the investment and work that a real relationship takes – with us and with our children.  What should we do? M.

Answer: Dear M.: I agree that you have a pretty complex situation; certainly one that isn’t very supportive to you, personally. Are visits arranged and are pictures sent when requested…so relationships can to built and sustained?

I think I would probably take the high road on this one for your children’s sake, even though the on-again-off-again behavior of the eight grandparents leaves a lot to be desired.

Because I love to write, (obviously,) I think I would put together a “grandparents newsletter”…sort of like a Christmas letter…that I would send by email or snail mail maybe every four months. Nothing elaborate or time consuming. Just the latest on the kids and a picture or two. I’d include an open invitation for them to come for a scheduled visit (but not to stay with you because of “space limitations.”) It would have to be your creation; I’m too removed from the situation to be of much use.

You could ask each child, when old enough, what they would like to say or include via photocopy, making sure all copies were identical. Then “publish” and let it go for four months. If visits and gifts follow, great, if not…you tried. Blessings, Luise

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