Have you been cut off from access to your grandchildren?
When ‘Nana’ was involved in a high-conflict divorce forty years ago, she’s alienated from two of her adult children, and two of her seven grandchildren. This devastating alienation leaves her suffering from depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a large feeling of void in her life. Nana’s not alone – it’s estimated that over 75,000 people in Ontario are estranged from their grandchildren, an epidemic called “Grandparent Alienation”.
“I looked for help, and reached out to the Alienated Grandparents Anonymous (AGA) organization, based in Florida, founded by Amanda ten years ago. It was a godsend,” shares Nana. AGA is an established Not Profit organization with presence in 18 countries, and it focuses on the struggle so many grandparents have in being part of their grandchildren’s lives.
A few months ago, and along with a few other advocates, Nana started the Hamilton Burlington chapter of the Alienated Grandparents Anonymous group. AGA provides support and information, and helps validate the feelings of those suffering estrangement, alienation, and isolation. Through information, support, and monthly meetings, AGA headquarters has supported hundreds of grandparents, and it has even been able to participate in many success stories.
“At the monthly meetings, we have discussions with guest speakers who help us learn how to deal with our adult children,” says Nana. “The meetings are an invaluable way for us to be heard, supported and educated on our rights as grandparents.” Understanding the complexities of alienation helps grandparents – knowledge is very powerful. Healthy minds want to fix things, and it’s important to understand that grandparents should not be embarrassed by the estrangement, and that they must stop blaming themselves. At the AGA meetings, nobody suffers alone.
This past December, Bill 34 (Children’s Law Reform Amendment Act: Relationship with Grandparents) was amended. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. While it doesn’t automatically grant grandparents access, it does mean courts must consider them in custody cases, while also looking at what’s in the best interest of the child, including the emotional ties between the child and its grandparents. The new subsection of Bill 34 recognizes that grandparents have a right to visit their grandchildren and moreover, that children have the right to a relationship with their grandparents.
Nana continues to provide support for grandparents on a local level, and invites those interested in learning more, to receive support by visiting the local chapter meetings and participating anonymously. Meetings are held every second and fourth Tuesday of the month in Burlington. •
For more information please call 905-531-8824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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