By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
When divorce with children takes place grandparents often get caught in the emotional turmoil and drama. Many grandparents are eager to help in any way they can. However they often don’t know how they fit in the equation, especially when it comes to their former daughter- or son-in-law.
Most grandparents put their focus on easing the hurt, anxiety, confusion and other difficult emotions affecting their innocent grandchildren. They know that love and support is vitally important for children at this time. Even teenagers benefit from their grandparent’s presence and nurturing.
If you are a grandparent trying to navigate your adult child’s divorce, here are some guidelines to help you be there for your grandchildren at a time when it really counts.
Be a trusted and loving confidant:
If you haven’t been close to the kids beforehand, developing a relationship with your grandkids now is not a smart move. However, if you already have that bond established, strengthening the connection at a time when the kids are facing so many unknowns is more important than ever. Visits, phone calls, texts, email notes and video chats can all be supportive. These conversations also take a child’s mind off anxiety about the divorce and onto thoughts and activities that are just plain fun.
In addition, grandparents with a strong communication and trust bond are well positioned to address difficult issues. Kids are more likely to confide their frustrations, fears and insecurities with a loving grandparent. Keep in mind that it’s always more effective to offer advice when the child initiates the conversation. Then you can share your wisdom in an age-appropriate manner.
An important note of caution: If you are going to discuss topics related to divorce or other difficult subjects, it is essential that you first talk to your adult child, or both parents, to get permission in advance!
Be a safe source of support:
Remember, grandparents should never interfere where you are not welcome — as tempting as it may be. Explain your concern on behalf of the children. Discuss the message you’d like to share with the kids. If one or both parents approve, then give it your best shot. If this is an area of contention between the parents, step back and find another way to be of support to your grandkids.
When a child is resistant to your conversation with them, don’t push the issue. You’re better off retreating into safer territory. If they do confide in you, be careful never to make judgments about their parents. Listen, offer helpful advice they can use, and end with hugs and words of support. Then talk with the parents about sensible next steps. Discuss ways you believe both parents can provide healing, reassurance and comfort for their children during this difficult time.
If the issues are complex, it’s wise to suggest bringing in professional counselors to suggest the best options for everyone in the family. They are trained to handle heavy emotional and psychological challenges. So leave it in their hands. You want to be valued for your role as a loving grandparent – not as a therapist or judge!
Be a grandchild advocate:
If your own son or daughter doesn’t understand how the emotional turmoil related to the divorce is impacting your grandchildren, schedule time for a serous conversation together. Arm yourself with resources in advance. Visit the Child-Centered Divorce Network and other websites for relevant articles, study results, and other valuable information about how children can be adversely affected by family drama and divorce. Share these important messages during your conversation. Have some positive and concrete suggestions on hand about where they can get help and support. Let them know you’re there for them. Explain that you’re on their side but also an advocate for the kids who can’t always speak for themselves.
It’s important that you don’t accuse, judge, dismiss or demean your adult child’s parenting. Remind them they are not alone and that most families coping with divorce face similar issues. Help is available both locally and online. Your goal is to make sure they find it.
Emphasize to both parents how much your grandchildren mean to you. Stress that you don’t want them to overlook your relationship with the kids in the months and years ahead, especially if relocation or other major changes are in the works. Explain that children need, want and value the safety and reassurance of their grandparents’ love. Your goal is to be there for your grandchildren as an asset in their adjustment to life’s many challenges for a long time to come.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books and e-courses on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca