Ask Amy: Grandmother’s long-term patience pays off

Dear Readers: Like you, I’m often curious about what happens to the advice I offer once it leaves my desk, and so I’ve asked readers to send in “updates” to let all of us know how my advice was received, if it was followed, and how things turned out.

The responses have flowed in, and I’m interested and often gratified to learn what impact this experience has had on readers.

This year I celebrate my 20th year of writing this column. Publishing these updates reminds me that we have been through a lot over these past decades. Some of these updates read like postcards from old friends, and I’m happy to share them.

(It’s important to understand that most of these updates offer a positive outcome. I assume this is because when things go well, people are more willing to share their experience.)

To refresh all of our memories, I’m running the original Q&A, followed by the update.

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 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.

No matter what I attempt to do or say at this point — such as let’s spend some time together and go to the mall or maybe the museum — she takes this the wrong way, as if I’m trying to guilt her. She ignores me or turns me down. I’ve 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.

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.

(Published in November 2011)

Update from “Her Nana”: Dear Amy, Yes, I took your advice. My husband and I were so very close to our granddaughter until this tough divorce. She chose to stay with her dad who continually said harmful things about her mother, my daughter, and particularly me.

It hurt me deeply when she continually shunned us and I almost gave up, but you advised me to keep at it no matter what.

And that’s what I did. You said to be there when she was ready.

Well, after five years, when she was about 17, she slowly started letting us back in.

She and her mother became very close again. And she became our loving granddaughter again.

She’s now 26 and a sweet and caring young woman.

I’m glad to have the opportunity to finally thank you.

— Still Her Nana

Dear Nana: My favorite outcome: A happy ending.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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