It is not just relationships between parents and children at risk when the parents split, but also the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.
If your son or daughter no longer has access, or only has limited access to their children, then you are also at risk of losing out on seeing your grandchildren. This can be a heart-breaking situation, but if you are serious about continuing a relationship with your grandchildren, then the law is on your side and you will be able to. However, it is best for everybody if you avoid the courts so there are some steps to take that can help you to reach an amicable agreement.
See the other point of view
As a parent, this will be the hardest thing to do. If your child has little or no access to their children, then the likelihood is that emotions will have been running high and resentment will be strong. You may feel that the other parent has wronged your child and by denying you access as well that they are acting unreasonably and out of spite.
To develop a meaningful relationship that will work long into the future, you need to put these feelings aside. Accept what has happened and do not take anything that happened between the couple personally. The other parent will have gone through a very tough time and will now be feeling unstable and insecure. They will also want to protect their children as much as possible and this is only natural.
The main parent may question your motives and wonder if it is just an act for the children to see the parent who has been denied access. They may also not want you to report back to your child what you have been doing with the grandchildren.
Do not start the process until you can feel empathy and understanding to the other parent.
Write a letter
Don’t expect the parent to get in touch with you. They will have a lot to deal with and will want to avoid further emotional trauma. You must initiate the dialogue and you should start by writing a letter, or email, if appropriate. Avoid any temptation to turn up on the doorstep.
Explain clearly how keen you are to continue the relationship and express understanding of the current situation, to reassure the parent that you are not out to undermine them or the arrangements for the children. Ask to organise a time to come over.
Stay on home turf
The other parent may not be keen on having the children out of their sight, depending on their ages. Understand this. This may be unpleasant for you, especially if you do not get on with the other parent, but it is important to work on trust and establishing a new relationship between you, the grandchildren and the parent. You could offer to take them all out if a home setting seems inappropriate. If you do take the children out without the parent stay close by and don’t come back late.
Offer practical help
No matter the circumstances a newly single parent will be in a vulnerable position. Offer practical help, without seeming interfering. From babysitting, to putting shelves up, to being on stand-by for school runs, find out if there is something that you can offer as a sign that you are committed to the welfare of the family. Avoid any judgemental statements, such as “this place is a mess, let me clean it for you.” This is unlikely to go down well.
Even if things are going smoothly, you may want to suggest mediation as a way to open up communication and work out a routine with the help of an expert. If your attempts at communication have drawn a blank, then a letter requesting a mediation process will show the other parent how serious you are about maintaining a relationship.
Seek legal help
If you can’t establish a two-way conversation about how to move forward, or relations have broken down, then seek legal help. The family courts recognise the important role grandparents play in the life of a child. You may not have to go to court, but a family lawyer can initiate the legal process.
Don’t give up
It may be that you tried contacting the other parent when emotions were still too raw, so don’t give up. These things can take time, but do what you can by sending birthday and Christmas gifts and writing to the other parent to demonstrate that you care.