5 Common Reasons An Adult May Keep A Child From Their Grandparent, According To Experts

Sometimes, it takes a tough choice to protect your children.

Adult woman keeping her children in a bubble away from grandparent Valeria Ushakova | Canva

A child grows up and becomes an expert observer of their parent's behavior. When their behavior has a proven pattern of harm or destruction, a line must be drawn to interrupt the transference of generational trauma.

Here are 5 common reasons an adult may keep a child from their grandparent, according to YourTango experts:

1. The grandparent is not safe

In my experience, adults may choose to keep their child from their grandparents because the grandparent is not safe. This could mean either physically or emotionally safe. Physical harm may come from a grandparent who is an unsafe driver, who drinks, who is not cognitively sharp, or who is a poor decision-maker, for example. Lack of emotional safety is probably rooted in the parent's childhood memories where their parent was abusive or neglectful. For example, an adult may not want their child subjected to the narcissism, manipulation, negativity, or emotional chaos they experienced in their childhood with the said grandparent.


Mary Kay Cocharo, Couples Therapist

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2. To prevent the continuation of generational trauma

A common reason an adult may keep their child from their grandparent is to prevent the continuation of generational trauma. This decision could stem from the grandparent exhibiting harmful behaviors such as racism, homophobia, or sexism, or simply being emotionally hurtful. Many adults reflect on their own painful experiences during childhood—experiences that may have led to lasting trauma and difficulties in personal relationships. As children, they were unable to protect themselves from these negative influences, but as parents, they have the opportunity to shield their children from similar harm. This protective instinct is a powerful motivator for preventing the same trauma from affecting the next generation.


Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

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@mentalhealness Narcissistic or toxic parents don’t go away, they become grandparents #npd #narcissism #narcissists ♬ original sound - Lee Hammock

3. The relationship is based on fear

There is a fear the grandparent won't keep the child safe or fear the grandparent has behaviors or habits whether it's anger or whether it's drugs or alcohol, etc.


Susan Allan, Life Coach and Founder The Marriage Forum Inc.

4. There's a lack of trust

There is a demonstrated lack of trust. This goes from feeling their parents never honor their rules for their kids to more extreme situations (like domestic violence or narcissism), some adults don't want their parents to treat their kids the way they were treated as children.

Dr. Gloria Brame, therapist, and author

Grandparent on phone can't see grandchild Maya Lab via Shutterstock


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5. The grandparent is overstepping boundaries

There are no perfect parents — or grandparents — but certain behaviors are outright unacceptable. After one mom began dealing with health complications that inhibited her from caring for her son properly, her mother stepped in to look after him. When the mom was finally able to take her son back in, she was stunned when she heard him call his grandma "mommy." The mom banned her mother from seeing her son after discovering she intentionally convinced the boy she was his real mom.

Francesca Duarte, writer of lifestyle, human-interest, self, adventure and spirituality topics

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@mmorinholistictherapy Being estranged from an adult child who withholds contact with their grandchildren can be challenging. Today, let's explore why this happens and five keys to what you can do. . . . . #EstrangedFamilyChallenges #fyp #Estrangement #ReconnectingFamilyBonds #SeekingHelp ♬ original sound - MMorinHolisticTherapy

More and more people have grown intolerant of the continued negative effects of harmful parenting and behavior. Especially when the person who has harmed refuses to acknowledge their contribution to the problems, these unhealthy behaviors are often the result of generational trauma being passed from parent to child.

When someone who has experienced childhood neglect or abuse begins recovering from the harmful effects of the past, they recognize the importance of protecting their well-being from future harm and often choose to distance themselves from the abusive or neglectful parent. As they become parents themselves, they will extend this boundary to protect their children from the potential harm of a grandparent who is still caught in their past trauma. 


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Will Curtis is a writer and editor for YourTango. He's been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.