03/13/2013 08:01 am ET

Susan Hoffman Q&A: 'My Son Is Turning My Granddaughter Against Me!'


Reader Question: My son and his family were living with me, and moved out of my house after a disagreement. My granddaughter stopped talking to me after that, and even posted ugly things about me on Facebook. I still see her often around the neighborhood, and she ignores me. I miss her. Should I try to talk to her? How do I repair our relationship?

It sounds like you are the victim of what I refer to as GAS, or Grandparent Alienation Syndrome. In your situation, the parents have joined forces to draw the child into their campaign against you. This is a powerful tactic, and a difficult one to combat. Much has been written on the subject, so relevant that I devoted an entire chapter to the issue specifically about grandparents in "Grand Wishes."

As for repairing your relationship, that may take time, but an effective start would be a cheerful greeting whenever you see her instead of ignoring her presence. A simple wave, smile, and verbal "hello" without expectation can help relieve tense moments. What you may want to ignore, however is her Facebook posts; it's best not to give them any power.

I suggest acknowledging her birthday and holidays with cards and gifts (unless those gestures are conditional upon her behavior towards you). Teach through example. Let her see someone who represents kindness and generosity of spirit -- someone who is able to provide unconditional love. Hopefully, it will tilt the scale and achieve some balance.

Last, repairing the problems and reconnecting with the parents would be the best possible solution for the situation. You will most likely be the one to take the initiative, so get ready to assume responsibility for making behavioral changes.

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Susan Hoffman is the creator and director of Advocates for Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a charitable non-profit 501©(3) organization, the purpose of which is to provide resources to families, specifically grandparents, experiencing visitation issues with grandchildren. She is also the author of "Grand Wishes: Advocating To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Bond" and "A Precious Bond: How To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship," as well as the documentary filmmaker behind A Precious Bond. She sponsored a bill in California on behalf of grandparent rights that became law in 2007, and currently lives in Newport Beach, California.



Grandparents Play An Important Role In Families, AARP Study