Too often children feel lost and confused during their parents’ divorce, but grandparents can be a vital constant in their lives and can help them through this tough time. Here are seven ways you can support your grandchildren during a divorce and can continue to be a positive presence in their lives.
1. Keep Your Opinions to Yourself
You will most likely be affected by your child’s divorce. Most likely you will have an opinion –often a not-too-positive opinion – regarding the actions of your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. You may even find fault with your own child also. Wherever your loyalty stands, be sure you do not make negative comments about the divorce or your grandchildren’s parents in front of your grandchildren. Trying to pit your grandkids against either one of their parents can add to their confusion and hurt. It can make a bad situation worse. It’s also important that you are certain your grandchildren are out of earshot when you speak to others – either on the phone or in person – about your feelings. It’s best to wait until the children are not in your care to express yourself on the topic of the divorce. Don’t talk on the phone with your child about anything regarding the divorce if you even believe one of your grandchildren may be in the room of the recipient of the phone call.
2. Be a Good Listener and Confidant
Children whose parents are separated or getting divorced often need a grown-up to talk to. They need to feel comfortable telling you their thoughts and feelings about both parents and the divorce. By not taking sides against either of their parents, you can allow your grandchildren to feel safe confiding in you. Encourage them to share their fears and questions with you. By creating a safe haven for them, you will let your grandchildren know that they can talk to you and that you will:
- Let them speak freely without judgment
- Truly listen to their concerns
- Not try to “fix it”
- Give them unconditional love
- Not use the information shared against one or both parents
3. Make the Holidays Special
Divorce changes traditions. But as a grandparent, you can make sure your grandchildren still have wonderful memories during the holidays – including birthdays. Keep your grandchildren’s needs and wants at the center of celebrations (even though it might be tempting for you to create the “perfect” holiday for yourself) and help them create positive, lasting memories.
4. Let Your Grandchildren Know It’s OK to Feel
During a divorce, children may feel angry, hurt, confused, and even unheard. Let them know that whatever they are feeling is normal – even if they want their parents to get back together – and it is okay to feel that way. Don’t judge their feelings or try to talk them out of how they feel. Just allow your grandchildren’s feelings to be heard and acknowledged. You can offer assistance dealing with these feelings, but don’t negate how they feel. At times, children may feel guilty for their parents’ divorce. This is a common reaction. Assure your grandchildren that they are not responsible for their parents’ problems. And, while you don’t want to share negative opinions about the divorce with your grandchildren, you can share your feelings of hurt, so they know they are not alone in how they feel.
5. Set the Ground Rules for Your Time Together
The rules at “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” may tend to be more lax than they are at home. That’s okay, but make sure that your grandchildren know what to expect. Being lax doesn’t mean your grandchildren get the run of your house. You can set up an environment where they still learn respect and love. You can take this a step further by creating an extra-supportive environment for your grandchildren. Create a reward system for good behavior – be sure to specify what good behavior means.
6. Respect the Agreements of Both Parents
There are some rules and agreements you can’t bend for your grandchildren. If they have to finish their homework before bed or are scheduled to attend soccer practice, you need to honor those agreements. Under no circumstances should you (even inadvertently) state or imply that the rules and commitments of one parent are more important than those of the other parent. No matter how you feel personally about a parent, you need to respect their rules with their children.
7. Focus on Them and Continue to Give Unconditional Love
Children can feel invisible during a divorce. As a grandparent, you have the ability to focus on your grandchildren when their parents can’t. That is a powerful position and can help your grandkids positively transition through this difficult time. Let your grandchildren know that you love them no matter what and give them the support they need during this difficult time. You can make a huge difference in their lives.
Celebrate Your Grandkids and Yourself
This year, Grandparents Day is Sunday, Sept. 10. Although it doesn’t get the same recognition as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, at Garwood Reeves, we believe you deserve the recognition for all you do for your grandchildren. Spend the day with your grandchildren and celebrate the role you each play in each other’s lives. Happy Grandparents’ Day! Photo credit: © Goodluz | Dreamstime.com