Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot How Do You Explain An Estranged Grandparent To Your Children?
Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot is an ongoing series dedicated to helping one very well-intentioned and dumb future-parent learn about the world of childrearing. Click here to see past columns.
We’re coming up on Father’s Day, which for me usually entails a grilling-themed bonanza and presenting my dad with some sort of Mickey Mantle-themed paraphernalia. I have had a pretty charmed life–despite some hellish years, my relationship with my parents is solid and ever improving. Mother’s and Father’s Day are fun days for me, and are free of too much baggage. But it’s obvious to me that those days aren’t so easy for many people who are estranged from their parents, and are a harsh reminder of their parents’ absence.
Bethany‘s touching post about the insensitive things estranged children hear around Father’s Day inspired me to ask a question I’ve been kicking around for quite some time: how do you explain estranged parents to kids?
While I am very, very lucky and count my blessings when it comes to my parents, someone I’m very close to–let’s just say his future is pretty linked to mine–doesn’t have the same family situation. He’s been estranged from his mother for years and speaks to his father a few times a year at most. Neither of his parents know where we live, where we work, or how to find us. He even changed his name.
And so how would a person in this situation explain the absence of grandparents to children? Do you lie, and say they’re dead? What’s an age appropriate way of saying “they’re alive, but they can’t be in your life because the choices they have made make that impossible.” How do you tell a kid that your own parents are bad people, and maybe even dangerous? I know that lying probably isn’t the way to go, but these concepts are hard for grown ups to even grasp (I still have trouble getting my head around it). How do you explain estrangement in kid-friendly terms?