First child is being left out of second marriage

After five years of single parenting,  my son remarried. We were so pleased for him. He and my daughter-in-law then had a son together. We were over the moon when this happened.  What a gift to have two grandchildren.

What is troubling, is that my son and his wife seem to spend all of their attention on my grandson: the child they had together. They feed and clothe my granddaughter. They send her to school, enrol her in dance and such. It all sounds good, but apart from those kinds of things, they treat her rather poorly. All of their attention and nurturing goes to my grandson.

My poor granddaughter can do nothing right. It’s like they tolerate her, but she really is not part of their family. She has gone from being just the brightest spark you can imagine, to a little girl who really does look sad, and is starting to act out. It is heartbreaking to watch, particularly since her biological mother is not involved. She really doesn’t have a parent that seems to be interested in her. When we tried to talk to our son and his wife about this, they got very angry and defensive. It was made it clear that if we wish to see the grandchildren, we best not be commenting on their parenting. We are so sad that she is so sad. I’m dreading her getting older and asking us why they just don’t seem to care about her. What can we do to address this situation?

This sounds like a very difficult situation indeed. Few things are more heartbreaking than to see a child go from being a bright spark, into a sad and acting out child.

In this situation there are parenting, grandparenting, step-grand parenting, and step-parenting issues. There are biological child and natural child issues. There are gender issues. It is really complex!

It sounds like your initial goal, of getting your son and wife to look at their parenting, was not a useful goal. The reaction you received was anger and defensiveness. This may change in time, but for right now, the goal of having them change their parenting style might not be useable. There may be all kinds of reasons for this, given the complexities of this situation. Some you may understand, and others you may not. And it really doesn’t matter. Until anger and defensiveness are not the response you get, there is no room to maneuver with that goal.

So, what about looking at a goal that is more related to your granddaughter? It sounds like you want your granddaughter to sparkle again. You note the ways in which she is “taken care of”: food, clothing, shelter, school, dance lessons. These are important things. You also allude to a sense that she may feel like she does not belong, that she may feel unloved, and sad and acting out, as a result.

What would it look like to have the focus: the goal, be to ensure that your granddaughter felt loved, and had a sense of belonging, without it needing to be specifically from her parents?

It is best if those things come from a child’s parents. No doubt about that. But at the same time, children are also able to take in these things from other sources, like their grandparents, friends, friends parents, teachers, etc.

Dealing with this situation may mean that you look at your own role as a grandparent, and decide what things you can do to increase her sense of being loved and belonging. As a grandparent, play dates are possible. One can be interested in those dance lessons, and attend special events, or even lessons, if that works for you. Regular communication strengthens bonds. Allowing her a place to express her feelings can be very special. (The book How to Talk so Children Listen and How to Listen so Children Talk is terrific for right now, and might help answer the question about how to address her questions as she gets older.)

It might be helpful to google “resilience in children” for other ideas of how to both help her get her sparkle back, as well as develop ways to strengthen it in this very complex situation. Focusing the goal on your granddaughter, rather than changing her parents’ parenting, may help them to ease up, and perhaps treat her differently – or not. Either way, it will be better for your granddaughter to have you all in her life. She needs you all.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton, standing at right, sits on steering committees of two organizations that are tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. File photo
Courtenay councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more… Continue reading

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Numerous Comox Valley projects get CERIP grants

Numerous Comox Valley projects have received grants through the Community Economic Recovery… Continue reading

Thrifty Foods. (Black Press file photo)
Thrifty Foods confirms staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Courtenay

The company currently lists 12 stores within B.C. with confirmed cases

Comox Valley Schools’ distance learning program, Navigate (NIDES), which saw some large gains in enrolment this year, could see a return to normal numbers come September. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley Schools expects enrolment drop come fall

Decline projected online, as more students return to ‘bricks-and-mortar’ classes

Cumberland will be looking to a parcel tax to cover debt for its new water system. File photo
Cumberland plans for parcel tax to cover water debt

Parcel tax review panel would take place March 22, if necessary

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Most Read