I run a feature on my blog titled Ask Me A Question. It is there so anyone can pose a question concerning their situation, disorder, relationship or anything else that they want some advice on. Over the years, it has been a popular feature and I like to think that it might have helped at least some of the people who took the time to reach out. I would say it even spawned the writing of my first book The Quest For Happily Ever After after so many questions came in concerning relationships and how to manage them. Given that I deal a lot with codependency, one can also imagine that many questions are on that topic and that would be correct.
One question that is popular this time of year is concerning the influence that grandparents should have over their grandchildren and how that might manifest itself. Given the holiday season is upon us, family tensions could come to the fore but this is a question that people ask themselves throughout the year. It ranges from the narcissist grandparent who wants to transfer their self-obsessed mentality from the so-called “golden child” to the children of said “golden child” to dealing with in-laws rights after a separation. The latter usually just takes honest, pen discussion and a framework that takes into account the best interests of the child but the former is much more sinister in the fact that the “golden child” has usually been conditioned in such a way that the needs of the grandparent are placed above those of the child and indeed their own needs. This often leads to parental alienation being practiced by the grandparent who uses all dysfunctional tools available to push their will through.
One might ask why this is so important to a grandparent who one might assume is finished with parenting. (At this point, we must recognise that there are many loving grandparents out there and indeed many who do not get to see their grandchildren through no fault of their own). In the case of the “narcissist grandparent”, it is a case of ensuring that the “golden child” status is maintained. As a reminder, a golden child is one that is conditioned to put the emotional needs of the parent first. Their achievements are the parent’s achievements and often the child is used to present a “perfect parent” to the outside world”. This is a powerful force to deal with and those people in marriages who have been subjected to “golden child” status find it difficult to set and maintain the appropriate boundaries, even though it is their responsibility primarily. This often leaves their partner frustrated and have to do this themselves, placing them in the role of “the bad one” in the eyes of the grandparent as sometimes the children. In circumstances where separation occurs, the “golden child” often reverts to type and delivers the child to the grandparent “boundary free” causing upset all around. This is very frustrating for the partner who often has residential custody who often gets painted as the “bad ex”, the “bad parent” and the one to blame.
There is never an easy solution to these cases and often the open, solution-focused discussion that should take place doesn’t or cannot take place in the cases of a “narcissist”. One issue that is very often forgotten is the needs of the child who is often used as a pawn by both sides. In “normal” cases, a family discussion must be encouraged with the needs of the child front and centre, boundaries set about who does the parenting and a framework found for visits, etc. In the case, described above of the “golden child”, parents must consider stricter boundaries and full consequences if not adhered to. This would include keeping the grandparent away from the child or supervised visits if possible. In cases where parental alienation is taking place, legal advice should be sought to protect the child’s long-term mental health.