How do I explain my estranged parents to my 7 year old son?

I am 38 and have 2 adorable kids and a loving husband. I have a phenomenal set of in-laws in another country and my father and his wife live close and are part of our lives.


My mother and her husband live in a neighboring state and have been active grandparents for the entirety of my children's lives. My mother is a fairly functioning alcoholic and lives in a world of drama and dysfunction. I have carefully orchestrated my life to include them while remaining safely some distance away. Still, we make every effort to see them at least a few times a year.

That all changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year. Sometime towards the end of my treatment, my mother decided that I wasn't including her in my treatment as much as she'd like. My in-laws kept flying in to help care for me and my kids and she apparently became quite jealous.

I accepted all help that was offered to my family during this hard time, and I never asked her not to come or prevented her from helping. She suddenly and without explanation decided to stop speaking to me as a result of her hurt feelings.

I only know some of this through conversations she has had with my sister. My siblings have been appalled by her behavior and told her how they feel. Subsequently, she has alienated my brothers and sister and their families as well.

I have sent letters, texts, emails and voicemails to her and my stepfather all without response. My children's voice mail messages have gone unanswered. She did not call before, during or after I went in the hospital for a double mastectomy. She simply "flipped the switch" on me and my family and decided she was done with us. She and I have always had a somewhat strained relationship, but superficially we always managed to get along.

I realize that I have no control over her and her husband's decision to be estranged from my family. As much as I would like to have a normal relationship, it does seem healthier to have her out of my life. Maybe that is my coping mechanism for rationalizing such a hurtful thing from my own mother, but I truly feel that this is better for my kids in the long run. They don't have to walk on eggshells the way I did my whole life.

So, now my seven year old is starting to ask why they didn't call him or his sister on their birthdays, and when will they get to see them again. How do I explain this to him? I want to put off infecting his perfect little world with her craziness for as long as I can, but I know I have to explain this at some point. I was thinking of telling him that his grandparents are simply acting ugly, and that until they stopped acting that way, we weren't going to be talking to them or be around them. I just don't want him to blame himself, as kids are prone to do.

I'd love some help with how to handle this now and in the future.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Parenting Questions.