Toxic Grandparents

image toxic bad abusive grandparents



Some grandparents really shouldn’t be allowed access to their grandchildren.






A percentage of the general population is dysfunctional and/or abusive. That percentage, like everyone else, has children. Then those children grow and have children of their own. The not-so-loving grandparents expect to have a relationship with their grandchildren. The only problem is, they’re not good grandparents.

Many adult children of toxic parents feel torn between their parents’ (and society’s) expectation that grandparents will have access to their grandkids, and their own unfortunate firsthand knowledge that their parents are emotionally/physically/sexually abusive, or just plain too difficult to have any kind of healthy relationship with.

The children’s parents may allow the grandparents to begin a relationship with their children, hoping that things will be different this time, that their parents have really changed, and that their children will be emotionally and physically safer than they themselves were.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, because most abusive people have mental disorders of one kind or another, and many of these disorders are lifelong and not highly treatable. (Others are lifelong and treatable; however, many people never seek the necessary help.)

The well-intentioned parent ends up feeling mortified for having done more harm than good by hoping things would somehow be different — instead of having a child who simply never knew their grandparents and who was never mistreated, they have an abused child who is now also being torn apart by the grief involved in having to sever a lifelong relationship with the unhealthy people they are very attached to.

If your parents were not good parents and you are considering whether or not to allow a relationship with your children, consider the following factors, as well as others, before deciding:

  • Have they fully addressed their issues in SKILLED long-term therapy? (A few weeks or months is nowhere near adequate if your parents regularly mistreated you).
  • Have they been treated for all the root causes of their dysfunction or abuse?
  • Have they sincerely apologized and made amends for the hurtful things they did? Not just said, “I’m sorry”, but really talked it all through with you over many hours’ time?
  • Are they very different people to you from the ones you remember?
  • Do you currently have a healthy, functional and stable relationship with them?
  • Do they respect your choices and boundaries as a parent? Do they follow your requests about how you want your children to be treated and to behave?
  • Would you recommend your parents to your best friend as babysitters without any hesitation or worry, and feel comfortable giving your word that they’d never harm your friend’s child, without any doubt?
  • Have you worked through all of your feelings about the mistreatment you experienced through your parents?

These are just a few of the important questions to answer. The best plan is to work through the matter with a therapist of your own, who has no bias toward trying to “keep families together” despite the presence of mistreatment.


If you are “no contact” with your parents, it is important to keep in mind that if they are too toxic for you, they are FAR too toxic for your vulnerable and defenseless children.

In the U.S., there is no such thing as “Grandparent’s Rights”. Grandparents may certainly TRY to get access, but fit parents may always deny it. This is a supreme court ruling, so there can be no exceptions made to this rule in any of our 50 states. (See more below.)


If you are in doubt about making a choice, it’s best not to rely on family and friends to advise you. Seek professional help.

And remember, it’s always much easier to change your mind after deciding not to allow contact than is to change your mind after allowing it.

If your parents were not good parents, err on the side of caution, and if at all in doubt, say no. Your child is counting on you.

Join us Friday. We’ll be discussing the top 10 dysfunctional comments people make.

* “The custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. A law that allows anyone to petition a court for child visitation rights over parental objections unconstitutionally infringes on parents’ fundamental right to rear their children. ~ Supreme Court Case, Troxel vs. Granville, Year 2000

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