Gransnet forums


Can it be too late to have a relationship with a grandchild?

(45 Posts)
FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 16:16:32

On another thread I have noticed some people think that a relationship with a grandchild can be taken up at any time and that grandparents don't need to bond. I would just like to discuss that further. Certainly I agree a few weeks won't make a difference but I wondered if you think there comes a point when it does and that you may never feel as close to a grandchild as you would have done. Someone even mentioned a baby really only needed to bond with Mummy and Daddy during the first year.

Maybe also if you feel shut out for long enough, in order to cope with that, your desire to get to know this child lessens.

To be honest it annoys me when there is always this assumption that grandparents are desperate to get their hands on this child and the parents hold all the power to allow it or not. It is as if it is all seen as the grandparents want something and the parents don't have to give it them. Shouldn't it also be seen as that grandparents are offering your child something too (a loving relationship, an extra person to love them) and perhaps if you push them away for long enough you will end up denying your child what could have been a loving relationship with their grandparent?

I ask this as someone who never had that relationship with a grandparent. I have always felt I have missed out on having extended family in my life.

AGAA4 Fri 07-Feb-20 16:24:36

I believe grandparents are important. You can never have too many people who love you and add to your security.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 16:30:19

AGAA4, I agree. Having loving extended family growing up would add to a child's security.

Loulelady Fri 07-Feb-20 16:51:12

I don’t know.
We saw my maternal grandma about 3 times a year for a few days. I doubt it was more when I was a baby as I was the second child. She was important to us and vice versa and we have lots of fantastic memories. She felt like a big part of life even though this was ore Skype and text etc. Other friends had a mix of local and non-local grandparents. I was born in 1970 and I think it was a bit before grandparents came to be such a widespread form of childcare.
I don’t think we loved grandma any less for not seeing her very often. We saw my paternal grandpa more often but only for a couple of hours each time. We were never close to him but that’s because he didn’t really know what to do with us. He’d ask after my mother, make a few comments then talk to our dad about work for the rest of the visit.
My DD saw my parents about 4 times a year in her first 5 years and ADORED my mum. They were incredibly close. Much closer than she was with her paternal grandparents who we saw fortnightly, - although she loved them too.
This thing you read about on MN and here of grandparents wanting “alone time” with babies is totally new to me. Neither my grandparents nor parents, nor in-laws mentioned it, thank goodness. I don’t know where it’s come from. My mum adored babies and was great with them, she didn’t try to get mine on her own though.
I think the bond probably depends more on affinity and quality of interaction rather than frequency or how early it starts.

Eglantine21 Fri 07-Feb-20 17:06:42

I think the emphasis on alone time is a bit strange frankly. If people are saying it’s important to be an extended family, then surely that means a whole family, albeit with some members there sometimes and not other times. But to insist on the parents leaving their children and being missing from the family dynamic? Weird.

In regard to absent grandparents and bonding, I didn’t meet one set of grandparents until I was 18, had left school and could travel to their home country. I didn’t have any problem bonding with them, or them with me, And it was only letters and the occasional parcel in those days.

It was much more difficult to bond with the Grandma who lived down the road and wanted to see me every day. Oh the obligation.........

Daisymae Fri 07-Feb-20 17:11:00

I think that the parents are the most important part of a child's life. Grandparents are nice to have. I don't think that it's necessary or even healthy to have to bond. If love is offered then the child will feel the connection whenever its offered. I do think that there can be a need generated by a baby that is sometimes misplaced. I am not surprised that some parents back off when faced with, well let's face it, an obsession.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 17:13:45

Loulelady, Calling it "alone time" is new to me too. I am a similar age to you. I have never heard it called that in real life but in other families I guess it happened but people would say they were with their grandparents or visiting them or their grandparents would be babysitting or they would be staying the night at the grandparents to give the parents some time alone. But grandparents having "alone time" as an actual thing does seem a strange concept.

Having said that I never had any of those things with my grandparents.

Yennifer Fri 07-Feb-20 17:15:40

My children see their grandfather twice a year and they totally adore each other and have a wonderful time. It's individual personality I think. The love is there or it isn't no matter how often you are seeing them x

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 17:32:53

Daisymae, I think the word bond may mean different things to different people. I was meaning bond as feel love between yourself and the baby, something more than just the positive feelings you might have towards the cute baby that happens to catch your attention on the bus or to the unknown ancestor you discover when doing your family tree. However, I wasn't necessarily meaning the intense bond that hopefully exists between parent and child.

I think some parents have it the wrong way round and assume grandparents are so desperate to get their hands on their baby and take over that they try to pull away from what they imagine you are going to be like.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 17:38:30

Yennifer, can I ask how long they see their grandfather for each time and if they have other sort of contact with him in between? Surely to love someone it requires time or else they wouldn't even really know each other

Yennifer Fri 07-Feb-20 17:46:31

A day at a time, nothing in between. I don't think the time in between matters to them he loves me so of course he loves them too and I love him so that's what they are used to. They saw their maternal grandmother weekly and she never built a relationship with them, couldn't even tell you what they like. She was not loving to me and I was unhappy around her, so no love blossomed really there x

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 17:47:32

My attempts to get to know my extended family as an adult didn't really work. I didn't love them, they didn't love me. I did find an uncle on the other side of the family and I did become fond of him but it never grew into love and his child (my cousin) and her children weren't interested in meeting me. It was too late, the time for making that family connection had passed.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 17:52:00

Yennifer, perhaps you talk to your children about their grandfather regularly and positively then? And perhaps you yourself keep their grandfather updated about the children so both sides feel they know each other well? Might that be why it works for your family.

Chestnut Fri 07-Feb-20 17:52:12

I don't think you need to worry too much about the early days. I didn't live near my granddaughter for the first three years, only saw her occasionally and we didn't really bond a great deal. Now she's approaching five and I see her weekly and we are very close. They won't remember much before the age of three anyway, and you can always make up for lost time. I don't think it's ever too late to have a relationship with them.

Yennifer Fri 07-Feb-20 17:59:55

No not really often but always positive to each when we do. When we are together we just role model a good strong relationship to them I suppose? They love and trust him as I do. Obviously our family relationships aren't conventional when we don't speak to one set of grandparents and miss another because of distance but it doesn't seem to have caused any problems. I love watching my Dad with my children and always wish we had him on tap but it's like Christmas and birthdays, a big thing to look forward too x

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 18:00:44

Chestnut, I know they won't remember much. I was thinking more of the grandparent who will remember and if it is too late for the grandparent to feel the same way as they would have done. Perhaps it is a silly question though as it probably depends on the individual.

I'm glad you are close to your granddaughter now though.

Lucca Fri 07-Feb-20 18:02:08

What exactly is “bonding” and why do parents or grandparents need time to do it? I loved my babies straight away and my grandchildren pretty much the same. Didn’t have to work at it. Grandparents are as someone has already said just more people who love the children.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 18:09:33

Yennifer, yes, I expect your children are just taking their cues from you. In my case, you see, I still don't even feel right referring to my mum's parents as my grandparents. My mum always spoke of her mum and her dad and so if I want to mention them now I am far more likely to say "my mum's mum" or "my mum's dad" than say Grandma or Granddad. However, my dad always said your Grandma this or your Granddad this so I at least feel a connection to them, although not a love. All my grandparents are long gone now anyway

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 18:15:30

Lucca, I think some people just find it easier and quicker to feel love than others. And I guess feeling love means different things to different people. In my entire lifetime so far I have only felt love for 7 different people

agnurse Fri 07-Feb-20 21:30:45


Bonding refers to the creation of a healthy attachment between parent and child. For many women, this isn't necessarily an instinctive process, and that can happen for many reasons. The birth may have been difficult. Maybe the baby wasn't the gender she wanted, or has some issues. Not to mention that she has to completely adapt her thinking now. Tilda Shalof wrote in her book, "A Nurse's Story", of when her first son was born: "He was mine, but he was a stranger, and I didn't know if I liked him yet!"

There has actually been a fair amount of research done on bonding, how it works, and the importance of it. If children don't develop a strong bond with their primary caregiver, they can develop something called reactive attachment disorder, or RAD. Sometimes this is observed in children who have been neglected or abused.

When I teach maternity nursing, there is actually an entire topic on postpartum family adjustment.

Hithere Fri 07-Feb-20 21:53:39

I don't think the problem is with bonding itself, but with the expectations that both parties have regarding the child and how involved the parents want the grandparents.
Expectations regarding the frequency and length of visits, activities to do during visits, babysitting, etc.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 22:35:13

Hithere, yes but do you think there is a point where too much time as passed without a grandparent having chance to form an attachment to their grandchild? So much so that parents have ruined their child's chance of having a relationship with what would have been a loving grandparent?

Hithere Fri 07-Feb-20 22:36:49

No, a grandparent is able to establish a relationship with a gc even if gc is adult - at adult level.
Of course, it depends on the background of each situation.

FlyingSolo Fri 07-Feb-20 22:45:13

How would that be the same sort of relationship though if they hadn't really known you as a child? Surely it would be a totally different relationship than it would have been if they had grown up knowing you/ you had grown up knowing them? I feel it becomes too late to really feel like family. I never managed to love or be loved by any of my extended family.

3nanny6 Fri 07-Feb-20 22:49:00

I think that a grand-parent has love for their child in the first instance and so when the grand-child comes along the love is then extended to the next generation/new family member.
The ties you have for your grand-child can then strengthen as the mum lets you help her with some feeds nappy changing and also short walks out with the baby in the pram it is just a natural follow on from your child to the grand-child.

Things can go wrong between the mother of child and grand-mother and if the mother then cuts the contact with a grand-parent and the grand-parent is pushed out from the little family unit and the length of time starts to be more than six months I would say in order for the grand-parent to cope then they have to lessen their ties to the child and they can give up hope of that bond ever being restored such a loss as the more people that love a child the better.

Speaking as a grand-mother that this has happened to there does come a time when "the crying has to stop" and life moves on but thoughts of those Grand-babies never fade.