Dear Savvy Auntie,

My brother and my sister-in-law are going back and forth on the topic of getting a divorce. Their problems started in August. They fight and decide to divorce then they get back together. They are now separated and my sister-in-law has moved her boyfriend into the home and he is now "raising" my nieces.

There is my 4 year old step-niece, my 2 year old niece and my 9 month old niece. My sister-in-law and I have never gotten along but for the sake of the kids we tried. But this weekend was my step-niece's 5th birthday party and I was not invited. I have not been allowed to see them for almost 3 months now. I really do not know what to do. Should I just let it go and not see the girls? Or should I try? I decided to reach out because I have gotten helpful advice from your site before.

Not Invited

Dear Not Invited,

Unfortunately, you are in good company! It is so sad to receive so many letters from aunts who are deprived of seeing their nieces and nephews. There ought to be a "law” like custody arrangements between parents who are divorcing. With the divorce rate being over 50% and the role of aunts more and more important, it is a shame that children are prevented from a close relationship.

On the other hand, with the increase in social media and technological communication it is easier for an aunt to be more active in maintaining the relationship. Before you begin, I suggest you write or email your sister-in-law and brother telling them how much their children mean to you and how you want to be a part of their lives. Keep in mind that this must be a very difficult time for them; and ask if you can be of any help. If they are not willing to let you see them, will they allow you to write to them and stay in contact by or Facetime? Certainly, with Christmas coming, you could send them some gifts and cute cards. Make it a tradition to send the kids a note, a drawing, a card... any kind of message, every two weeks.

As for the birthday you were not invited to... often 5 year olds have parties just for friends and not relatives. Try to let go of feeling offended and ask yourself if there is anything you might have said or not said, done or not done, that might have offended your brother or sister-in-law in the past few months and own up to this with them. And you can ask them if they are holding a grudge in relation to you, then try to repair the situation.

I don’t think you will be happy in the long run if you give up without trying some of these suggestions.
Best of Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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