Put it on your family planner now… 5th October 2014. National Grandparents Day here in the UK.

Before you sigh and think its another commercial import from our American friends, here’s why I think its a great idea.

Grandparents are helping the UK economy by supporting families to work. Grandparents are a great source of support on an emotional as well as practical  level.

Top grandparent facts include:

  • 1 in 4 working families and 1 in 3 working mothers use grandparents for childcare.
  • 63% of all grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare.
  • 1 in 5 grandmothers provide at least 10 hours a week of childcare.
  • The proportion of grandparents who are of working age is set to grow as the retirement age gradually rises.

You may have spent time with your grandparents when you were a child. You may have seen them after school or you may have visited them for holidays. You might also have gone on holiday with them without your parents. You might be luck enough to still have one or several of your grandparents still living.

Its great to celebrate the love and contribution our grandparents give us.

Unfortunately, many children do not get to enjoy this time because their families have separated or divorced.

Perhaps you are a grandparent who is not able to see your beloved grandchildren because your own child has divorced.

You may  have already contacted wonderful organisations such as www.grandparents-association.org.uk or www.grandparentsapart.co.uk to seek support and advice through this upsetting time.

I’m wondering whether you have considered family mediation as an option?

You may be aware that if you wish to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order to see your grandchildren, you will first need to apply for ‘leave’. Leave basically means that you need the permission of the court to apply. The test that the court considers is the ‘best interests’ test. This is the best interests of the children not the grandparents. In my experience as a legal adviser, it is commonly granted.  Once leave to apply is given, grandparents can apply to the court for an order in the same way a parent would.

As an applicant for a Court Order, grandparents will now be required to attend a MIAM. Our leaflet about mediation will explain more about MIAMs and its easy to download.

What if you are not wanting to issue court proceedings?

Perhaps you’d just like the opportunity to speak with the parent(s) of your grandchildren to ask them to consider contact?

Well, you don’t have to be considering court proceedings to use family mediation. You can use it anytime.

Here at Your Family First, we are committed to supporting grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren. Feel free to download our leaflet Grandparents and Family Separation for more information.

Remember, it can take time to rebuild relationships.

Be patient.

There are many reasons why contact is stopped. It can be, and is rarely through spite.

Sometimes it feels easier for the parent denying contact to cut all family ties. This is painful for you and rarely directed at you personally although it feels like this. It may be that the parent is hurting and is struggling to come to terms with the loss of their relationship. Perhaps they need time and understanding?

Here are a few things you may consider:

  • If a refusal continues, perhaps consider asking them to attend mediation so you can discuss matters before going to seek legal advice.
  • If direct contact is refused, consider requesting indirect contact as a starting point. Ask whether you can chat with the children on the phone or send cards to them.
  • Ask if the parent would be willing to keep you updated about the children.
  • Stay calm and be as understanding as you can. Building and maintaining rapport is the key to changing difficult relationships.
  • If appropriate, acknowledge the hurt and distress the parent  is going through.

So, whatever you are doing this Grandparents Day, I hope you get to enjoy your grandchildren.