If you have or plan on having a baby, you’re probably imagining the child growing up with doting grandparents and fun aunts, uncles, and cousins that they bond with from an early age. I myself was lucky enough to have a childhood full of sleepovers at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, cookie-baking days, and zoo trips with aunts and uncles. But what do you do if you don’t have a family like this? How do you navigate having an uninvolved family who doesn’t take much interest in your child’s life?
What To Do About An Uninvolved Family
Recently, the mom of a happy, healthy two-year-old son, Jennifer Bailey, wrote a letter to her uninvolved family on the blog Her View From Home. In it, she addressed how sad she felt that her son was not growing up with the loving, present family she hoped he would. She can’t understand why her son’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles don’t want to be there for his important moments. She doesn’t know why a phone call, facetime, or visit is so uninteresting to them. Her son is getting older day by day, and his family is missing all of it. (1)
“I have forced, time and time again, family to care about our son. Begged them to come over and see him and play with him and make some memories. Typical excuses: busy with work, not a good time, you name it. Some send cards and gifts in lieu of visits and phone calls,” she wrote. “My son doesn’t need gifts. He’s one. He needs to establish connections and have memories with you.” (1)
Unfortunately, she has largely given up on her family. It saddens her to realize that she can’t force her family to care about its youngest member no matter how hard she tries. (1) If you find that your family is acting similarly, is there really anything you can do to change it?
How To Reach Out To Uninvolved Family
Family life has changed drastically over the last few generations. Families live farther apart, and people, including grandparents, lead busier lives than ever before. Many of us get so caught up in our own lives that we simply don’t realize how much time has passed since we last saw or at least reached out to our family. The first step in re-involving an uninvolved family is trying to determine why they are distant in the first place. (2)
To start, do a double-check for reasons why family members may be acting this way. Some of these issues may be ones that you want to get them to help with before actually involving them in your child’s life. This can include:
- Substance abuse problems
- Mental illness
- Family fights/feuds
- Contrasting views (parenting, human rights, lifestyle, etc.)
Don’t forget to inspect your own role in the distance. How involved in their lives have you been, prior to the baby? Did you actively reach out and check on them before pregnancy and children? If not, keep in mind that suddenly now expecting them to just want to be involved simply because you have a child is a bit of a big ask. This doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but going into these conversations with family as a victim when you haven’t recognized your own role won’t end well. (2)
Start A Conversation
Once you’ve determined possible reasons, it is time for the even harder part: to have an uncomfortable conversation. Reach out to the family member or members in question and let them know how you feel. Make sure in this instance; you address your role in the distance between you and apologies. Let them know that you aren’t coming to them simply because you’re looking for free babysitting or anything like that, but because you just want your child to have a relationship with them. (3)
Be willing to discuss what may have happened in the past and what you can both do to make the future better. Rather than focusing solely on the issue at hand (in this case, them not appearing to want to partake in your child’s life), focus on feelings. Allow them to talk and explain themselves. (3)
Assure them that you want to fix things and repair whatever damage has been done. That being said, make sure you aren’t the only one apologizing or taking ownership of the situation. Remember that there is a good chance that the other person could have their back up against the wall. If you feel things are getting too heated from their end, remain calm. Yelling and getting in a fight will not help your cause. (3)
They may need time to process your requests, so don’t push anything too hard, too fast. Finally, as hard as it is, if they are unwilling to budge, then you will likely have to follow what Jennifer did and, sadly, move on. You can only ask so many times – if someone doesn’t want to be involved, there’s not much you can do about it. (3)
Family Doesn’t Have To Mean Blood Related
People say that family is everything; however, remember that “family” can have many definitions. You can create a family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and even grandparent figures through your friends. At the end of the day, the community you want to raise your kids in are the ones who want to be there and who love your child like their own. This can be your best friends, your next-door neighbor, and other people in your circle.
Having an uninvolved family is an unfortunate situation, but it doesn’t mean your child has to grow up feeling any less loved. Reach out to those people if your own family won’t budge, and always remember: They are the ones missing out on the wonderful love that is you and your child.