Explaining to teens about NC - what if they contact PD grandma as adults?

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Sidney37

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Hi all.  With all of this quarantine time, teen and pre-teen children are asking lots of questions about the NC with grandparents. I’m wondering how to respond and hoping that I handle this in a way that they don’t break the NC as adults and end up getting themselves triangulated, abused and told lies about me that they believe.  I know Starboard Song and some others have dealt with this.   Just looking for guidance.

 The kids have asked about old situations based on their memories where I tried to protect them by covering for grandma’s and PD aunt’s bad behavior.  They are only now learning why we left vacations early or the hateful things PDm said to me before she stormed home.   They didn’t know the names she called them or their father.  There were over the years many instances where PDm and PD aunt blamed my kids for things (as toddlers or young children) that they themselves instigated or actual did themselves.  Once my child repeated to me hateful things being said about me by PD relatives and PDm and aunt tried to convince me that my young child (5 or 6) was a “manipulative liar”!  Can we say projection!?!

My older child asked today how she can trust that I’m not the one lying or manipulating.   She wonders if she would get a different story from PDm.   Of course she would! How do I respond?   What happens when my child turns 18 and contacts them and gets manipulated, lied to, triangulated, etc.?   What do I say and do now to try to prevent it? 


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moglow

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I'd stick as close to my truth as possible, without running down the grands. You and i both know the grands will tell a very different version of whatever you say, and that's okay. That's their stuff, not yours, and you're not in any way responsible for them.

As vile as my mother had/has always treated others, I've been grateful Daddy let me work through it on my own. He didnt talk about her, but always listened to me when I needed to talk. I watched and listened and paid attention, and eventually reached conclusions on my own, as it should be. I got burned by her enough that i couldn't ignore and THAT lesson was driven home by her treatment of me.

I think the lesson there was (or at least my takeaway), every relationship in every family is different - what works with one simply doesn't for another. Those pipe dreams of closeknit families don't always happen. By all means answer their questions, but they will likely have to experience the grands acting out (more than once!) before they really understand.

“Nothing exposes our true self more than how we treat each other in the home.”  ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin

Stop Stinkin' Thinkin'!

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Starboard Song

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Oh, yay! My favorite nightmare!

We know we have to accept that our kindhearted son may figure that he can test those waters in a year or two (he's almost 18). He may calculate that, as a grandchild, he is a coveted prize and far less likely to me the subject of any mistreatment. True enough, at the start.

And we know, if that happens, he'll be lied to. I suspect the lies would take the form of "we've always loved your parents and just have no idea why they've been so hateful to us. We are ready to accept them with warm and open hearts at any time."

Yuck.

He knows the rock-solid, sordid truth about our crisis and NC. We explained that only in the last year, as he was plainly age-ready. There is so much more to say, but we've tried to protect his ability to love and cherish their memory. We don't want to take that moderation so far, however, that he sees this as a horserace, and is uncertain who's telling the truth. Fortunately, our crisis is a bit like the American Revolution: it is remarkably well-documented with contemporaneous letters and emails. I know, the founding fathers didn't use email.

We think we are threading that needle as best we can. We encourage loving laughing memories. We haven't destroyed old photographs and gifts or anything. But we also speak candidly from time to time, and we've laid out the honest truth about what happened and "how they are." We've done so with unsparing honestly, but kind, detached respect. No name calling. No inflammatory adverbs. Just the unvarnished truth.

After that, we truly believe his decision is to be respected (outside of our roof). We raised a young man who outweighs me by 60 pounds and towers over me. He is also smart and kind. I have to trust him to manage his own engagement with respect for himself. If not, that's got to be fine by us. He understands we will not be entangled.

To answer your question, I think deciding what is age appropriate is the hardest thing. When my in-laws implemented the Final Silent Treat, our son was only 12, and that was way too young for him to know what was being written and said about us, or the decisions my MIL was making and announcing. We struggled, but feel we did OK. We invoked the help of a family counselor to help us make those decisions. As he crossed 14 and 15 we began to share more, and at 17 he knows everything, but has not been allowed to directly read the worst messages ever written to and about us. That still seems wrong.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 05:56:44 PM by Starboard Song »
Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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overitall

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Ah, the PD grandparent...I could write a book about this topic...

I shielded and protected my children from the toxicity of my PD parents, only to have my teenage children question me as to "who is telling the truth".  I can remember quite clearly the day my oldest DS asked me straight out, "what would you do if I didn't speak to you, just like you don't speak to grandma and grandpa?"  I didn't miss a beat...my reply, "If I treated you as if grandma and grandpa treated me, I would hope you would have enough self- esteem to stand up for yourself and remove yourself from the abuse,"  A somewhat confused face appeared...I didn't say anything directly about my PD parents, but my answer in itself was a bit of an answer.

As my children grew and became adults, they would eventually, from time to time, "test the waters" with my PD parents...I can tell you that all of my children were systematically exposed the the PD nightmare...my DD invited my PD parents to her wedding, with my mother showing up in jeans...when my daughter was embarrassed by my mothers appearance, my mother told her that "I''m not going to be in any photos, so why does it matter?"  My daughter realized on her wedding day that my PD mother was more concerned with making a statement, than she was with the wedding...

My DS (only a few years later) decided to invite my PD parents to his wedding...they showed up late, left immediately after the wedding, and no showed the reception....he was hurt and angry, but learned that much of what I had experienced was the absolute truth.

I probably did myself a disservice by protecting my children from the family dysfunction..they did not realize the extent of the family dynamic;  when they allowed my PD parents access to their lives, my children soon learned that PD's operate on a very different level.

Honestly, after my children had a few interactions with my PD parents, it became apparent to them quite quickly as to why I went NC...kids (even adult kids) figure it our...you just need to give them time and space

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Delphiniumgirl

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Im experiencing this now. My vile aggressive mother has successfully attracted my child with the promise of inheritance.  The two are triangulating against me. I've always been honest yet it hasn't paid. Now going nc for my own sanity and wearing the blame for everything that is wrong in my child's life. Nc at all is safer. Missing all the gc though and wearing a thick coat of guilt. Sleepless nights prevail.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2020, 07:19:00 AM by Delphiniumgirl »

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Starboard Song

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Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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PeanutButter

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Im experiencing this now. My vile aggressive mother has successfully attracted my child with the promise of inheritance.  The two are triangulating against me. I've always been honest yet it hasn't paid. Now going nc for my own sanity and wearing the blame for everything that is wrong in my child's life. Nc at all is safer. Missing all the gc though and wearing a thick coat of guilt. Sleepless nights prevail.
Ive been there.

 I dont dispute that we have shaped our children and the life they had as we raised them certianly has impacted who they are becoming.

 But we could only do the best we could do at the time. Even if we know our mistakes harmed our children imo we should forgive ourselves.

 We certianly dont know how it will all turn out. If we can find compassion for ourselves then ime we will have compassion for our child should they ever return to us.

We all have a higher power ime so I pray for my children and for the best possible outcome for them. I ackowledge that I will have no active involvement in what that outcome will be be, while trusting that it can still be some kind of wonderful I cant even imagine.

That is just how my life turned out. I know my true Father (god or higher power) was with me through it all even when I lost my FOO and my religion (actually a cult).

Meditation has helped my sleeping problems.
If there is a hidden seed of evil inside of children adults planted it there -LundyBancroft  Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong good or bad -DebbieFord The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none -Thomas Carlyle

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Fortuna

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I would have the children think about their times with PD grandma. Kids pick up ALOT more that we usually realize. Find the times when PD grandma was dismissive, rude, belittling to them, or to other people when they were in the room. Or when she gaslighted/changed her story depending on who was in the room.

By the time I finally went NC my preteen was ready to go too (except she was sad about not getting presents anymore), My mom had been incredibly dismissive of my daughter's work with a cause she didn't see the point of, she'd been there when my mom's last words as we moved out of state were "Be careful or make one mistake and you'll lose your grandchildren too." (My mom convinced herself we moved to get away from her, typical Narc stuff), She overheard part of the "last straw" conversation where my mother treated me horribly.

My youngest just understands that my mom can be a bit of a bully and since she can't stop, we can't be around her.

I imagine if you were leaving vacations early and things, there's got to be some recollection on the kid's part that there was yelling, or PD grandma didn't treat someone very nice, or it being really awkward and quiet (or frightening and loud) at the dinner table with PD grandma. She may not have put it together that it was because of grandma's behavior.

As far as contact as adults, I haven't gotten there but I straight up told my kids they could if they wanted when they were adults. That right there is probably going to take most of the wind out of the sails. It's not forbidden, I'll do my level best not to get worked up over it if they do so when it goes south they still feel they can come to me. They will have their own lives and she will be this lady that once sent care packages around holidays until she yelled at mommy one too many times.

good luck!

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Yael924

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Welp, this is really our worst nightmare, yes?

Sidney, first things first. Give your self a Good Parent box of chocolates, victory lap, or whatever you do. Your kids trust you enough to ask painful questions. You've done a good job building a solid relationship with them.

Growing up is tough stuff. Our kids are deciding; what are my priorities? How do I want to make my way in this world? Not easy.

But you can educate your kids. There is actual science as to how investigators determine truthfulness, for example. Or how a scientist tests a hypothesis -- is she cherry picking the data that supports the concept?

Here is where the interwebs is your friend. Search for things like "confirmation bias" or "selection bias" or "how does the (insert investigatory body) determine the truthfulness of witnesses? And check research on DARVO. I would check out relevant clips from true crime shows and search key words for signals of lying (over explaining, can't keep a timeline, shifting narrative, forgetfulness only at points that make the person look bad, whataboutism, and so on).

As a nerd mom, I approached these questions with research. I know it seems like an odd thing to do, but if you show your kids that hey, these types of questions are things we all grapple with, it takes the personal sting out of the situation. They can draw their own conclusions from the data (experiences) they have. They are empowered. And they will feel more comfort in their decisions.

The hardest thing for my kids to wrap their heads around is that the happy memories they have with the gps are also true and valid. That the fun, kind gps can live in the same body as the abusive persons. It's not that gps were lying per se, but more that they have enough control not to lash out at anyone but me. That is a tough pill to swallow. It's ok to tell them it's tough.

Most of all, please don't bash the grands. I had one parent do that to me as a child and the stress and guilt from not defending my gp made me vomit (yes, it was that bad).

It was important for me to emphasize choice to my children. And to demonstrate it. All people make mistakes, but it's a choice how you deal with the mistake. And that brings me back to my personal mantra: sometimes grownups make bad choices.
Again, it separates the person from the overwhelming awfulness of what they do.

Good luck Sidney.  :bighug:


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Sidney37

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Thanks all.  I really appreciate everyone's insight. 

At this point, I know I can't sit around with regrets, but I regret not putting a stop to her demands and visits well before I did.  Shutting this down when my kids were little would have prevented all of the damage done especially to my oldest who was the golden child.  My younger child wasn't the scapegoat, so there seems to be no sadness there due to the NC. 

I'm definitely not running parents down, but answering questions honestly when asked. My MIL runs down her former son in law to his child (her grandchild).  I hate it and have talked to her for years about not doing it. I avoided doing that, but instead covered for PDm.  Instead of covering, I'm answering questions honestly but as emotion free as I can.

I spent so many years covering for the covert behavior.  What I didn't know was that she was saying terrible things about me to my oldest child for years, while I was covering for the awful things she was saying and doing to the rest of the family.   She was also saying terrible things about one child to the other that caused years of issues.  I didn't think it was fair to drag a young child into an issue that I believed to be just between adults, but I didn't know what she was doing.  She almost never showed her bad behavior in front of my older child other than to say mean things about me and my other child, but she made it seem like she was the victim and had no choice but to say these things.  What my child would see was me getting mad at her seemingly loving, gift giving, perfect, picked on grandmother (who made her the center of attention and the GC) for "no reason" according to PDm.  PDm would leave and drive hours home days early because "your mommy is so mean to me". Back then I had either kept my mouth shut for days and finally blown up at PDm for mean things she said to me in private or after being here on this page, I had set boundaries that made her cry, wail and threaten to leave because I was "so mean".  I had no idea she was saying most of it, because I was typically on the phone or in another room with DH or enD trying to get their help to resolve the mess PDm was creating.  PDm would cry to my young child about how I was making her go home and she might never see them again, because "your mommy is so mean".  She "didn't do anything" and "mommy got mad for nothing". 

I've definitely started educating them.  I've described personality disorder to them, especially the older one.  She is now asking questions about situations she remembers very differently than what actually happened.   She remembers the names that PDm called younger brother after I pointed it out.  I tell her the truth.  She asks about situations that she believes I might have experienced as a child and I have to honestly say that I wasn't permitted to attend things that she is allowed to attend.  She knows that I allow her freedoms and decision making abilities that I wasn't permitted to have.  She talks about her friends having parents who track their every move and don't allow them to go anywhere.  I explain why parents might think it is a good idea to track their minor children with their phones.  But she also knows that my parents wanted to put a GPS tracker app on my phone at age 40+ so they could track me from states away and that isn't normal. 

I think they miss the happy memories with enD.  He's generally kind, funny and helpful but so much of an enabler that they can't see him without seeing her.

I think it's especially hard for people, even family members and children, to see that someone is a covert narcissist when they cry about being the victim in a convincing way.  Poor grandma, they think.  It's hard when the grandma expects people to be enmeshed.   They see it as the grandma who is attentive.  They have friends whose grandparents never call, never see them, etc.  But their grandma expected to talk to us 2-3 time a day.  When I explained that grandma only wanted to talk to me when they needed my attention (bus drop off, right after sports or dance, when I am trying to put them to bed) or I needed them to be doing something, I think they started to see the pattern.  It wasn't about being nice, it was about needing my attention or their attention on her. 

Apparently PDm's needs to take attention away from my kids or just on one kid was bad enough that it got brought up at school.  I got a call from school that maybe I shouldn't be on the phone with PDm when the bus dropped off and that maybe I shouldn't allow PDm to come to my house the last week of school before Christmas because it caused my kids to have a spike in crying and stress at the school.  I was able to tell my kids that even people at their school who had never met PDm said that we needed not to be talking to her or inviting her to our house!!

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Liketheducks

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Goodness, I'm SO here right now.    I have been NC with my Dad all of DS's life.   They've met just once and it didn't go well.  Dad was pleasant to DS, but threw me under the bus when there was a conflict with my Bro.    All DS's life, I've told him age appropriate truth.   (My mom and Dad abused each other.  Mom is crazy codependent and manipulative- so is Dad).  I truly don't know if they're PD...because neither would get treatment or a diagnosis.....but it feels crazy to be around them at varying times.   
Right now, I'm the scapegoat for my Mom.   And, in the pandemic, Dad has (we're talking 30 years here) tentatively and gently reached out.    I know when people stop doing the same crazy patterns, it's time to sit up and listen....and that's what I've been doing with Dad. 
DS is 16.   He has a lot of interests in common with my Dad, but NONE of the crazy.   Dad is being gentle and keeping things light with DS.   
Ultimately, you'll not be able to control what anyone else does except yourself.   I've always tried to say, "this is why I don't have a relationship with Dad, but I'd be open to one IF".....and IF is sort of happening right now.   It's such a confusing time for teens right now.   
I've also let DS know that IF he feels uncomfortable with the contact they're having or IF he starts to feel confused about stories (to remember that everyone has their own version), or IF Momma Bear needs to help enforce boundaries or safety...that's why I'm here.
But, WOW is it weird.   Spent my life thinking Dad was the less stable parent....I know they're both off - as we all are in our own way - but weird times.