Sage Advice: Grandparents Want Alone Time with Grandkids

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency | February 7th, 2018


Unhappy_Grandparents Image

Dear Amy: We live out of town from our son, daughter-in-law and our three precious grandchildren. We fly to their town monthly to see them.

Our daughter-in-law’s mother lives around the corner. She is divorced and her life is completely devoted to her daughter, our son and the grandchildren. She has no boundaries and gives us no time alone with the kids when we visit.

I once tried to talk with her about it, but she ignored my thoughts.

Our son and daughter-in-law won’t address this. I once asked if we could spend some time alone with the grandchildren, and our DIL replied with a nasty text saying how dare I expect her mom to sit home alone while we’re all together when visiting.

She is with them all weekend – every week.

Our grandkids come to visit us one or two times a year and that is all the alone-time we have. We’ve tried to discuss this with our son privately, but he gets defensive. We fear risking an estrangement if we bring this up again.

Any thoughts on how we can handle this?

– Sad and Disheartened Grandparents

Dear Sad: Because this grandmother is so intimately involved in this family’s life, a grandchildren extraction could be extremely difficult. Presumably the couple relies on her for lots of help with the children. You may also assume that they either like her very much and value her presence in their lives, or they need/want the help so much that they are willing to tolerate her boundary-leaping omnipresence.

Because your daughter-in-law was so rude and hostile toward your idea of seeing the children on their own – and your son is so disappointingly passive – if you want to risk one more “ask,” you should appeal directly to the grandmother. Act as if you are asking her permission, and she might grant it.

Say, “We enjoy seeing you during our visits, but we’d also love to spend some alone-time with just us and the kids. Would you mind if we took them out by ourselves one afternoon while we’re here? We’d really appreciate it.”


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers.

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