Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Alienated Grandparents

Alienation up and down the family tree

Posted Apr 10, 2015

I will be giving a talk next week to a group of grandparents who identify themselves as victims of parental alienation. It appears that alienation can affect grandparents in at least five ways: (1) the middle generation is alienated from his/her child and therefore does not have the right to grant access to the grandparent, (2) the grandparent is alienated from his/her middle generation child who refuses to grant access to the grandchildren, (3) the grandparent's adult child is deceased or otherwise out of the picture and the son-in-law or daugher-in-law refuses to grant access to the grand children, (4) the grandparent is estranged from his/her adult child who refuses to grant access to the grandchildren (not strictly alienation) and, (5) the son-in-law/daughter-in-law refuses to grant the grandparent access to the grandchildren. In each case, the middle generation is the gatekeeper to the grandchildren.

Grandparents can derive tremendous pleasure from relationships with grandchildren and suffer terrible pain and loss when those relationships are disrupted or prevented. As with alienation between a parent and child, alienation between a grandparent and grandchild represents a form of ambiguous loss in which the child is physically absent but very much alive in the heart and mind of the grieving grandparent. There is no closure because the child is still alive. That is the blessing and curse of alienation.

Because the middle generation functions as a gatekeeper, they are the key. The alienated (or estranged) grandparent must try to repair that relationship in order to heal the psychic wound that is preventing that parent from allowing access to the grandchildren. However, it is essential to not treat that person as a means to an end. They will most likely sense that they are viewed merely as obstacles rather than as valued individuals.

I hope to gain much insight next week when I am giving my talk and I look forward to expanding my coaching practice to include alienated grandparents so that the terrible intergenerational transmission of alienation is not allowed to continue to cause pain and heartache up and down the family tree.