When adults are dealing with divorce, the desire of grandparents to stay connected does not get taken into consideration. While a predictable visitation schedule may have been the norm, once you have two single parents sharing parenting time, it can reduce the amount of time that a grandparent can spend with the family. A lot of this will be out of your control, and you will potentially find yourself working harder to preserve family time with your grandchildren.
While some grandparents are involved in their grandkids’ lives on a daily or weekly basis, you may be experiencing your first visit with your grandchildren since the divorce. Here are some tips as you try to be the GRANDparent that they need you to be.
Takeaway Tip #1: Get an update on the divorce from your son or daughter before hosting your grandchildren. It is important that you have a check-in conversation about how your grandchildren are adjusting to the divorce. Ask if there are any stress behaviors of which you should be aware. If there are any items from home that will make them feel comfortable during their stay with you, be sure to get those as well. Make sure that you understand what the agreement is for access to the children when they are staying with you. Your son or daughter-in-law may be able to contact or see your grandchildren while they are with you, and you need to be prepared to handle that interaction if the divorce is high-conflict.
Takeaway Tip #2: Remind your grandchildren that they can have fun. Use this opportunity to engage your grandchildren in ways that stimulate their minds and connect them to you. Cooking with your grandkids and teaching them family recipes can be a fun way to bond. Create a scavenger hunt that includes mementos from their parent’s childhood, or a family show and tell. These types of activities can connect them to their history, and allows them to learn a little bit more about their mother or father, from the person who knows and loves them the best.
Takeaway Tip #3: Accept that your grandchildren may share their pain with you. Your home may be their safe space, and you may be their trusted person. As you spend time together, your grandchild may not be able to hold in their pain and sadness, and it is important that you let them share that with you. Although you may be dealing with your own distress over the loss of your son or daughter’s marriage, it is important that you just listen. Remind your grandchildren that both their parents love them, and the divorce has nothing to do this with them. You may want to keep the things your grandchildren share with you between the two of you. However, even if you want to protect their privacy, if they share that they want to harm themselves or have been harming themselves, you need to share that with their parent.
Takeaway Tip #4: Never badmouth your daughter or son’s ex to your grandchildren. While you may know the details over why their parent’s marriage ended, it is not your place to share any of that with your grandchildren. Practice the poker face, and try your best to keep your anger or hurt feelings under wraps if you have to interact with your son or daughter-in-law. If their parent is disrespectful or threatening, you must set the boundaries of what behavior you will not tolerate. Also, if your son or daughter is speaking negatively of their spouse in front of you and their children, privately remind them that is not in the best interest of their children’s mental health.
Takeaway Tip #5: Do try to stay neutral. While it may not be easy to do, it is important that you make both parents understand that your goal is to keep your role and home safe for your grandchildren. If you have concerns, and want to make sure that you will be able to continue to spend time with your grandchildren, it is important that you share that with your son or daughter. The earlier they know that you want to be there for them and your grandchildren, the better your chances of your support being seen as positive, and it being made a priority during custody negotiations. Grandparents can be a lifeline to their grandchildren, so relax and enjoy your special time with your family!
If you are contemplating divorce, or struggling with a high-conflict divorce procedure, let Tamara Harris, CEO of Tamara Harris LLC, be your partner as you navigate through each stage of your journey. As an impartial, experienced professional, Tamara will work directly with you to give you the best tools and strategies to manage the specific challenges and uncertainties of divorce. Serving as your Divorce Coach and advocate, she will help you see clearly during this time where emotions can often impede and derail your divorce procedure. While each member of your high-conflict divorce team – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other experts – will be advising you, Tamara will help you to synthesize this information, think strategically about the options you have with clarity and purpose, and get your divorce across the finish line. Visit tamaraharris.com for more information, or contact Tamara Harris to discuss becoming a client. All inquires will be held in confidence.