By Rusty Bradshaw
For most grandparents, contact with their grandchildren adds to their quality of life. But some grandparents find themselves alienated.
“It has been 18 months since I have seen my only grandchild, who is 5,” said Sun City resident Kathleen McClellan. “I had always been involved in his life and had a great relationship with him.”
Sun City West resident Margaret Roline has a similar experience. She is alienated from two of her three children, which in turn means she does not see four of her five grandchildren, two of whom are grown and married.
“My daughter sees to it they don’t talk to me and asks me not to disrupt their lives,” she explained.
Alienated grandparents are becoming more common, so much so that a nationwide organization was formed to help them cope with their situations. Alienated Grandparents Anonymous has chapters in every state. Ms. McClellan wants to establish a chapter in the West Valley.
“AGA is limited to one per county and there is already a chapter in the East Valley,” she said. “But that is quite a ways for some of us to travel.”
Because of the dense concentration of population in Maricopa County, Ms. McClellan was granted permission from AGA officials to start a second chapter for West Valley grandparents. She hopes to have meetings 2 p.m. the second Monday of every month, but a firm location has not yet been determined. Grandparents interested in the group and its meetings are urged to contact Ms. McClellan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It will be an open group, open to any alienated grandparents in the West Valley,” Ms. McClellan said.
According to information on the national AGA website, www.aga-fl.org, the organization provides support and information, and helps validate the feelings of those suffering some degree of estrangement, alienation or isolation. According to information on the site, 71 percent of grandparents believe being a grandparent is the most important part of their lives.
While AGA does participate in advocacy for legislation for grandparent visitation rights, Ms. McClellan said that is not her primary goal in establishing a West Valley chapter.
“We are not looking for sympathy,” she said. “This is a group to allow people to share and express their feelings. That helps people deal with it, teaches ways to cope.”
Ms. Roline said alienation from grandchildren is embarrassing and humiliating. Ms. McClellan said when others realize someone is not allowed contact with the grandchildren, they assume the grandparent has done something wrong.
“It doesn’t go away, and the older you get you think you are going to take that stigma to your grave,” Ms. Roline said.
According to the AGA website, studies show multi-generational contact between children and their grandparents provide a special unconditional love and nurturing that is healthy for children. AGA meetings can also offer strategies to healp relieve the pressure alientated grandparents feel, and strategies to heal relationships with with adult children. Presentations are available on the nationwide organization’s website.
AGA officials also want to educate the public about the issue and advocate for grandparent rights.
The Alienated Grandparents Anonymous nationwide organization has a number of goals to help assist those who are suffering degrees of estrangement, alientation and isolation.
1. Educate the public about the growing issue.
2. Raise awareness of Grandparent Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.
3. Consultation, support and advocacy for grandparent rights legislation.
4. Offer support, understanding and validation.
5. Provide information, strategies and coping skills.
6. Work toward reunification and healing of relationships.
7. Provide top quality specialists with information on many dynamics of alienation.
8. Bring awareness of AGA to the legal, mental health, religious and school communities.
9, Study and provide professional research on grandparent alienation.
10. Collect, coordinate and disseminate information on the importance of grandparents in grandchildren’s lives.
11. Study the global impact on the family.
12. Explore the impact on grandchildren of alienatation.
13. Provide PowerPoint programs to educate communities about AGA.
14. Manage and maintain website with updated information.
15. Help other communities establish a strategy alliance with AGA.
16. Seek grants to help achieve the AGA goals.
Source: Alienated Grandparents Anonymous.