Dear Dr Meg,
My daughter and son in law will be divorced in a couple of weeks. My daughter will have sole custody with supervised visits. The supervised visits will be with my husband and I. My son in law is an alcoholic, has anxiety issues, and is bipolar with sudden rages where he destroys things. Since my granddaughter was born 2 1/2 years ago, his symptoms and diseases have become out of control and he states openly he resents her for being born and that she has ruined his life. He has never established a relationship with her and when he was around her he wanted to hit her, not spank, just hit her for his own satisfaction. Anyway that’s the short version. My question is do you have a book on raising children from a broken family. We want to do the very best we can to raise a happy healthy girl!! Statistics are gloomy. Please help.
Your granddaughter is lucky to have you and your husband in her life. Yes, statistics are gloomy but here’s something that you need to remember…your granddaughter is not a statistic. Her story is not written and there are many things in her life (you and your husband for starters) that will work in her favor. And never underestimate the power of two healthy grandparents!
In fact, every one of my books focuses on raising healthy children. I would encourage your husband to read Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters because in many ways he will be a father to your granddaughter. I have seen many stepfathers and grandfathers turn a little girl’s life around with love, compassion and attention. So have him read that. Also, I have something called The Strong Parent Project on my website which I wrote for people just like you; adults who are or are acting like parents to children whom they love.
Here’s what I encourage you to concentrate on in the years ahead- keep life simple. You’ve raised a daughter so you know that we parents spend a whole lot of time and energy doing things for our children that really don’t need to be done. What children need, instead of the stuff we give them or the pressure that we put on them to go to the right school or get into the right sports, etc., is time with us. Let me repeat. If you really want your granddaughter to grow up to be a sound, responsible and self-confident young woman (even when it appears that the cards are stacked against her), bring her close to your side and live life next to her. Take her to the grocery store, on camping trips, on hikes, or to rake the leaves in the yard. By living next to you and her grandfather, she learns that she is your little apprentice in life. She will learn what it feels like to be wanted, loved, liked, respected and listened to. She needs to know that someone sees her and feels that her company is desirable and that her opinions are worth hearing. This is what happens when we live life beside our children rather than ship them off for someone else to coach, teach, befriend or play with.
The one common factor that I have seen in every child who has grown up to be emotionally healthy and happy is this: they have spent a lot of time with parents or grandparents. We must never forget that we adults must be part of our children’s peer group- not in order to behave at their intellectual or cognitive level but to bring them up to ours. This is what helps children mature into strong, well-adjusted adults.
And it sounds to me from your letter that you are just the kind of grandmother who can do this.