If you are an extended family member of someone being alienated in your family, it can be a challenge to know what to do (or not to do). Do I tell the child that they need to be back in relationship with their parent? Or do I tell them that their other parent is lying to them? Are questions I often get from extended family members. Aunts, uncles, grandparents - you name it, it can be tricky to know what role to play. I am here to help. I was once an alienated child, myself.
1. Leave the Parental Conflict Out
Let's say you are the grandparent of an alienated child, i.e., that they are being alienated from your child/their other parent. You may want to tell them how terrible of a person their alienating parent is. That they are lying to them, keeping them from an entire side of the family, etc. While you may be thinking you are doing some good, this is the opposite of what the child wants (or needs) to hear. You can support your adult child, who is being alienated from their child/your grandchild, in other ways. But not by involving their alienated child in more conflict by telling them about their parental conflict.
2. Make it Easy!
Simple and easy! That is the only way. Visit or communicate when you can, but keep it only about them. Take interest in them. The alienation conflict between parents is really only about them. When I was alienated from my dad, my grandfather (my dad's dad) would often go to the mall where I worked and walk by the store I worked at. Eventually he approached me and asked if I wanted ice cream. I finally agreed, and it was the start of a new relationship. He was helping bridge the gap by association. I was starting to realize that my dad's side of my family really wasn't so bad, like my mom had told me. He didn't ever say anything bad about my mom, either. He would just be there for me, my grandpa. And that was all I needed.
3. Follow Their Lead
No need to start going in for big hugs, or asking them to come over to the house, to a family event, etc. Going in for that big cheek kiss, when they are still in a skeptical phase, will just close the door shut. Keep working on your relationship, together, and they will soon fold back in for more.
Check out my latest video for helping alienated children during the holidays, right here on my channel. I have lots of guided content there so be sure to subscribe to get alerts.