Ask Amy: Grandmother devastated by estrangement

November 28, 2011

DEAR AMY: My 14-year-old granddaughter and I have become estranged. Her parents split up after 14 years of living together.

She chose to live with her dad while her mother (my daughter) and my 5-year-old granddaughter came to live with my husband and me (for the past 18 months).

I helped to raise my older granddaughter from infancy, as her mother was a teenager when she gave birth for the first time. We spent a lot of time together and had a very close and loving relationship.

My granddaughter continues to shun her mother and me (her father has involved her in their breakup, and she has taken his side. He speaks horribly about our family). It is so painful. My therapist says to stay in touch with her and give her time, but her rudeness is hard to take.

I know she is hurting. She wants her parents to get back together, but my daughter says that will never happen. My granddaughter is seeing her school counselor.

No matter what I attempt to do or say at this point — like let’s spend some time together and go to the mall or maybe the museum — she takes this the wrong way like I’m trying to guilt her. She ignores me or turns me down. I heard she misses me, yet every attempt I make to spend time with her is met with disdain. What should I do at this point to not further alienate her? Will this ever get better? I miss her terribly. -- Her Nana

DEAR NANA: From your description, her father is influencing your granddaughter and preventing her from having a relationship with her mother, and the rest of you.

This is tragic — and sadly common when parents go through an angry breakup.

When you think about it, you will realize that your granddaughter doesn’t really have any choice; to have a close relationship with her father (with whom she lives), she has to separate from you. She is doing the only thing she knows how to do to keep the peace at home. Think of her as a survivor — this is how she is managing her untenable position.

I agree with your therapist’s advice to give her time. I would further encourage you to continue to be a loving and patient adult in her life. She deserves to have a family member who will forgive her teenage flaws and love her anyway.

Assume that she misses you (and her mother and younger sibling!) very much. Her rudeness and attempts to push you away are protective instincts. Please understand this.

Persist in your attempts to stay in touch with her and stay positive but don’t push her too much; her reactions will change as she adjusts to her situation and matures. You want to be there when she is ready.

DEAR AMY: My ex recently asked out one of my closest friends. He talks to me daily, asking me for advice about her, and has frequently said that he values my advice the most.

I am confused about what his intentions are and am confused about our so-called friendship. -- Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: Your ex is treating you like a “girlfriend” -- someone with whom he can share his crush-life while scarfing popcorn at a teeny-bopper slumber party. You obviously don’t want this.

One nice thing about exes is that you get to tell them to step off when they bug you. You get it? He’s an ex! You don’t have to impress him or win him over with your niceness.

Friends read and respect boundaries. Friends self-correct. And if friends don’t, then you get to tell them the unvarnished truth or express your genuine confusion.

I suggest you get the ball rolling by asking, “What’s your game, friend?”

DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Stressed Spa-goer in Va.,” the medical professional who disliked his/her work life being dragged into a spa treatment.

When the technician asks what he/she does for a living the customer should reply, “I sell insurance.”

I am sure a new topic of conversation will be introduced immediately. -- Mark in St. James, Mo.

DEAR MARK: Excellent suggestion! That’s an insurance policy I’ll happily buy into.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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