How to help adult grandchildren re: difficult child?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by scent of cedar, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    We all know how tough it is to navigate to detachment as the parent of a difficult child.

    Where (and how in the world) is the child of a difficult child going to find the knowledge and the courage to detach from her own difficult child parent?

    Think of all the ways our difficult child children manipulate us. Now, imagine the difficult child is your own mom.

    I am going to research Al-Anon and NAMI groups in that area. I don't know what else to do.

    I think what you will tell me is that I need to stay out of it.

    I can hardly believe this is happening. The manipulations are so blatant, and the children so vulnerable and powerless and confused.

  2. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My granddaughter has had to navigate through that same maze. I don't know how old your grandkids are, but what I do know is that it really is a different ball game for the kids, what they need to hear from you and know from you is that their reality is what is true. Detachment isn't the same for them, it's more about them knowing what the truth is.Therapy helps them. Therapists have told me, with all children from any kind of dysfunctional background, if they have just ONE adult on their side who validates their truth, that makes all the difference. Even if you only see them occasionally, but you tell them that their mother is not well, that how they feel is okay, that they can express how they feel to you, it will be okay. You can't save them from their mother, but you can validate their experience and share your own.

    I come from an environment where mental illness and deception, manipulation and secrets reigned and it took therapy for me to find a healthy way, however, there were many adults along the way who validated my experience, who believed in me, who listened to me, who allowed me to express myself. That made a HUGE difference. There are also books you can get for them, depending on their age, you can do a google search about it, "children of bi-polar parents, children of narcissists", etc.

    Other then the normal grandparenting role, their Dad should be the one responsible for their dealings with their mom. All you can do is be a safe place for them to come to, to be real, to be heard, to be seen, to have permission to be themselves and talk to you. And, you can tell them your truth about their mother, that IT ISN'T THEIR FAULT SHE IS THE WAY SHE IS. I told my granddaughter that constantly as she was growing up. And, I was always a safe place she could be, way before she came to live with me. You are not responsible for their fate any more then you are responsible for your daughter's fate. You can provide them with the usual grandparent role and then you have to let go and keep your boundaries intact. I know that's hard to do, they are so vulnerable, but it is their experience not yours, you must step back from it. How you help them the most is to tell them the truth, in dysfunctional families the truth is the most important thing, children can see the truth, so your job is to validate it for them.
  3. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Thank you, Recovering. :O)

    As time passed, I was able to admit that I can't protect my grandchildren from this anymore than I was ever able to protect myself from it. You are right that my role needs to be to function as a safe place, a refuge.

    And a witness.

    After I blew through the initial shock, I was able to respond to my grandchild appropriately.

    I am shocked at the depth and pervasiveness of my capacity for denial.

    Oy vey.

  4. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    i hope your daughter gets the help she needs and will work to make life better for her children.

    I am new on the forum, but it is really a safe place to come and vent/share.

    My 20yo step-son's girlfriend is going to have a baby any day now, and I can only imagine what we will be dealing with.
  5. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    As you know I was never able to detach from my mother but I never knew she was mentally ill as a child and I was also undiagnosed mentally ill too. That made for a horrible combination. She did so much damage to me its not even funny. I am sure if I was removed from her care when I was very young I would be very different person.
  6. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    AppleCori, welcome!

    I am so sorry you needed us but, like all of us here, I'm so glad you found us. This site is a wonderful place to rest, to gather strength, and to learn what has helped other parents. At the ends of many of our postings, you will find links to other sites that parent has found valuable enough that she wants to share it. Take a minute to look through them. There are links at the ends of my postings, as well.

    Thank you for wishing my daughter well, AppleCori. I am doing so much better with everything since I have started posting here, again. So many times, what we need is a different perspective, another style of coping. You will find that here. I am so glad you found us. (I am so glad I found us!!! :O) )

    Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your grandchild! Here is what I have learned: take every smallest opportunity for joy and run with it. Anticipate the baby's birth as well as you are able. Believe all will be well until you know differently, and celebrate with your husband this new phase in both your lives as though everything were as you always hoped it would be. If bad times come, you will cope ~ but you will be able to see your way through the bad times more clearly for having celebrated the good and joyful things.

    And that's all I know, today.

  7. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    My father was an erratic, abusive, and often explosive, narcissisic man. I think I turned out pretty ok mainly because my grndmother (his mother) validated me and made me feel loved. She lived with me from when I was 3 until I was 8 and then moved in with her daughter. After that some of the neighborhood moms encouraged their daughters to befriend me and showed me what a functioning and loving home was like. It didn't prevent me from falling prey to other narcissists along the way but it did help me to know I had worth and strength and courage. The rest of the work I did (and am still doin)g as an adult when I came to the realization that I had been programmed by my parents and my church to be a co-dependant like my mom. I wish I had learned sooner and maybe helped my daughters avoid some of her hurtful relationships but they are adults and now doing their own (better self) work. I guess what I am trying to say is that being a loving grandma is huge in a child's life. Especially when the parents are not so good at parenting. -RM
  8. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    I remember my Grandma too, RM. I always tell everyone what a difference she made for me...but I forgot that, or didn't think I had the power to matter, for my own grandchildren.

    But that's not true, is it.

    I cannot make their parents different, I can't really do too much about their financial situations, but I certainly can love them, and validate their perceptions. What was that you said, RM? Worth, and strength and courage. That's so important. And even if they are far away and I don't see them so often anymore, I can send things in the mail. And whenever they receive them, they will know that whatever else is happening, we see them, and know them, and love them.

    Those seem like such little things, from my perspective now. But you are right, RM. My grandmother made all the difference for me, too.

    And I hardly ever saw her.

    Thank you, RM.

    That's just what I needed to hear, today.

  9. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    I like to re-read your posts after I have had some time to absorb them, Recovering.

    These thoughts are so comforting. They bring me a sense of peace, and a feeling of hope. Sort of like finding a road map when you thought you were lost. I can see where I'm trying to go, now.

    Thank you.

  10. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Barbara if you are not a difficult child learn out of self preservation.

    My sibs, who spent 24/7 with my mom had it rougher and it took them longer to figure out that many things were her and not them. They're still in the process of figuring it out and they're in their 50s. They do, however, do much better than they did when they were in their 20s. But they still don't quite "get it".

    Because I spent a good 90 percent of my early childhood with my grandma (up to age 11 or so), I got sort of an outsiders view of my mother, plus that mother/child bond never really formed. It did, but it was with grandma, not mom. Most importantly, in my opinion, I got to see how "normal" women/mothers behave and parent. And it was little like my mom's.......hers was always so extreme. I had my mother's number by the age of 12. Her opinion no longer mattered after that point. I no longer needed her approval, sought her approval, and usually didn't even acknowledge her approval the rare moments I received it.

    Maturity and age...........and forming a detached relationship from my mom began to teach me she is not her mental illness. (schizophrenia) She is a person with a mental illness, and often that illness causes behavior and thinking that alienates her from others, most especially those she loves (because of course we see more of it than anyone). I can appreciate her good qualities, which there are many. And I can detach from her difficult child qualities, which there are also many.

    I haven't read any of the other responses yet. But some people benefit from talking with a therapist if only to have the diagnosis explained along with the behaviors with an opportunity to unload emotions they've spent a lifetime building up. I didn't need that, but many people do.

    If my sibs would first learn to accept mom's diagnosis, then learn about it........well, they'd make much more progress in detachment. But they still waffle where her diagnosis is concerned. Know what I mean??
  11. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    You've given me alot to think about, Hound Dog. Thank you. It's interesting that I never really considered that my mother may be ill. (!) Looking back through that perspective may clarify so many things.... I will have to think about that some more.

    I really liked what you had to say about mental illness being something a person has, and that it is not the defining characteristic of the person.

    I agree that learning more about what the various diagnoses mean will be helpful to me. NAMI has a group called Family to Family. I am planning to take that class.

    Thank you, Hound Dog. :O)
  12. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

  13. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Barbara, I'm another one whose grandmother was a mom, a confidante and a strong mentor in how to be a good mother (and grandmother, if/when I get there). She came to live with us when I was 3 months old -- I think she knew that my mother's mental illness (schizophrenia) would get worse with time and stress, and that she couldn't handle a newborn, especially not a newborn girl--an "accident", no less--on top of the 12 month-old boy she already had.

    I think being on the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) spectrum helped me tremendously in detaching from my mother. My beloved Grannie was my confidante and protector, who soothed me when I was scared, set me on the path toward learning to control my (vicious and often violent) temper, taught me how to be invisible when I didn't want to be seen or it was unsafe for me to come out of hiding, and provided a witness and contrast to my parents' neglectful behaviour, so I knew I was loved and worthy of being loved, and that it was my parents who had trouble loving me properly. I think grandmothers have tremendous power and influence in their grandchildren's lives, even when they're only present infrequently. That unconditional love and support, combined with wisdom and guidance, is unmatched.

    My parents have not changed, and at this stage are unlikely to. They are now trying to build the bridges with me that they should have built during my childhood, but the foundations are neither strong not solid. I stand on the opposite bank, staring across the tremendous chasm between us, knowing that they can't get here from there. I feel sadness and pity for them, but no desire to interfere or help them build the bridge. They can try, and I will stand and watch, detached.

    I think your grandchildren will be okay.

  14. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I think each case is different from the other. Sometimes I wonder if I went "overboard" but obviously easy child/difficult child sees me as his Mom but very importantly tries to accept that his bioMom has not had recognized evil intent in the choices she has made. difficult child#2, who lived with us for eight years, is having a more difficult time because he really, really wants to believe his "Mommy" has always had his best interests at heart. BUT, for example, he showed up at my store for maybe twenty minutes of hugs and reaffirmation yesterday. It's a hard row to hoe being a grandma to kids who are not being heathily nurtured. on the other hand, once they know you are "there" it gives them a chance so seek solace. DDD