Caroline West-Meads: I hardly get to see my grandchildren

Ask caroline

Q. I am very upset with my daughter and son-in-law because they see his parents all the time and I hardly get a look-in. They moved to the coast near his parents seven years ago when their first child was born. They said they wanted a better quality of life, but I can’t help wondering if it was to get away from me as they’re now a three-hour drive away. The past year has been particularly frustrating because I’ve only been able to see my grandchildren – who are five and seven – on Zoom, while their other grandparents have been meeting them on the beach two or three times a week. I had hoped that with rules easing my daughter would bring the children to see me more often, but they have only come once so far. All the children did was talk about the fun they have had on the beach with their other grandparents and I felt quite put out. I am concerned that my daughter and son-in-law are too lenient – they hardly seem to discipline the children at all. I have suggested going to visit them because I thought that it might be easier in their own home, but my daughter always says that she and her husband are busy with work or the children have school activities. I think they are just making excuses. I feel that I am being treated very unfairly because surely I have a right to see my grandchildren as much as my daughter’s in-laws.

A. I can see that this must be hard. Without knowing you or your daughter, it is impossible to say whether the situation has arisen because she is selfish and inconsiderate while you are lovely and neglected, or whether you have contributed to the difficult relationship. You say you ‘have a right’ to see your grandchildren, but nowhere do you mention love for your daughter or her children, which makes me wonder if there could be more to this. Please forgive me if I am wrong (I have a great deal of sympathy for your position), but I think it is time for a self-awareness check. When you see your grandchildren, do you play with them, listen to them and read to them, or can you be a little disapproving and harsh? Do you talk to your daughter and her husband or do you tend to air your own grievances? You sound eaten up by jealousy – which is understandable – but avoid getting into competition with the other grandparents as it will get you nowhere. You would do better by being open-spirited, warm-hearted, friendly and welcoming to your co-grandparents. Talk this through with a good friend who is kind enough to be honest with you to see if any changes are needed. Focus on what is best for the grandchildren: making them feel valued, loved and special. You may have different views on bringing them up, but I would avoid telling them to your daughter and son-in-law – it won’t make them any more keen to see you.

Should I split my inheritance with him?

Q. My father died last year. He and my brother had not been close for over 20 years, so my father left his estate to me. However, a few days before he died, he told me he felt guilty not including my brother and wanted to change his will. But he died before he got the chance. My brother is aware of this and has suggested I split my inheritance with him. I am reluctant but feel morally obliged to do so. What should I do?

A. I am sorry to hear this. There is an argument for simply accepting what your father wanted, but there are other factors to consider. For instance, while your brother has had little to do with him over the years, have you been your father’s unpaid carer or had to give up work to look after him and subsequently suffered reduced earnings? You can also look at it on the basis of need. While many people think wills should be split absolutely equally
between siblings, this is not always necessarily best. I realise this is controversial because how much each person is left can often be confused with how much each sibling was loved.
But it can be about practicalities. For instance, does one of you have children and the other not? Does your brother need the money more than you (or vice versa)? I can’t make the decision for you, but weighing up these considerations might help you decide. Ideally, you could discuss the situation with your brother, but that depends on the state of your relationship. If you can’t agree, mediation might be a good idea. See civilmediation.org
to find a reliable mediator.