Dear Amy: I am a mother of a divorced son. He and his ex-wife have joint custody of their four children ranging in age from 11 to 18. It is a bad situation in which she fought for full custody and has not been happy with the custody or the financial settlement decided by the mediator and judge.
My son's ex-wife has been eroding the relationship between the children and my son over the past three years by talking against him. The oldest, a girl, took sides with her mom and chose to live only with her from Day One of the divorce, and now the son, 14, wants to only be with his mom.
Over the years, I've given checks to the children for their birthdays and Christmas, and I've never received any kind of acknowledgment from the older two, unless they are with my son.
I don't have much feeling for them anymore, and I am torn about continuing to send gifts and feeling disloyal to my son who is hurt by their attitude. I live about 1,000 miles away from them, so I only see them once a year.
What do you think I should do?
Amy says: Parental alienation is a very real thing. I only wish that parents who engaged in this extremely destructive behavior realized how cruelly they were using their children -- and to what end? So the kids would have fewer family members to love?
Your question perfectly illustrates how, when one parent "turns" the children against the other, the kids lose more than just one parent in their lives -- they lose an entire side of their own family.
Please don't be a part of this, and urge your son to do everything possible to maintain contact with all of his children. I would challenge everybody in your family to love these children without reservation, even when it seems that there is no reciprocation.
I hope that you will choose to continue to remember your grandchildren on their birthdays and at Christmas. You should also try to be in touch with them occasionally for no special reason at all, but just because you care about them.