Divorce can be rough on the kids. That’s no secret. The turmoil involved in having one parent move out of the house and the chaos and conflict which can accompany divorce is enough to leave any child feeling vulnerable and angry. A safe haven for the kids can be found in the stability and sameness of the grandparent’s home. Make sure to keep those relationships intact — and allowing them to grow — is more important during a divorce than ever. But it can be more complicated.
Here are a few ideas for helping your child maintain close ties with your ex’s parents.
1. Don’t Play the Blame Game
Regardless of how you feel about your ex’s family, they are still relatives of your children — divorce won’t change that. You never know, they may be as sad about the break-up as you are, but won’t mention their emotions out of a sense of loyalty.
2. Put Your Own Hurt on the Shelf
Make your own feelings take a backseat to the needs of the kids. It might be emotionally difficult to see your ex’s parents, but do it for the children. If things are too difficult, maybe you can get the ex to drop-off — and pick-up — the children at his parent’s home. Everyone will be better off learning how to redefine and cultivate a ‘post-divorce’ relationship that is stress-free.
3. Family Mediator
If communications have really soured and it’s impossible to talk about boundary issues for grandparent/grandchildren visits, think about getting an impartial third-party involved. With their help, the emotional noise can be set aside and a conversation developed which focuses on the real issues. Don’t just cut the grandparents out of your child’s life; everyone needs a plan that will be mutually acceptable.
4. Focus on the Future
It might be difficult to recognize at first, but helping to grow a loving relationship between your child and the grandparents may pay off with dividends in the future. What do you want for your child — and yourself — ten years from now. The choice you make today will help form the foundation for tomorrow. If you want a family landscape that includes relationships built on honest and respect, now is the time to get to work.
5. Family Get-togethers
Family get-togethers can be stressful after a divorce. Planning ahead — combined with a willingness to be flexible — can help ease the anxiety and drama.
6. Maintain Contact
Allow the grandchildren to maintain contact with your ex’s parents. One study has found that 5 percent of of children from divorced families rarely, or never, had contact with their grandparents. Lack of communication can be stressful and full of grief for everyone involved.
7. Keep the Activities
It can be helpful to make sure grandparents can continue the same activities with the child that they enjoyed before the divorce. With divorce being as life-changing and disruptive as anything the children will experience, continuing past activities can help reduce the feeling of turmoil and a loss-of-roots.
8. Keep the Child in the Dark — Sometimes
Your child needs to know about some of the changes that will be happening during the divorce — but they don’t need to know evrything. The child doesn’t need to get invovled in any issues between you and your ex’s parents, for example. If you need to talk with someone, seek out an adult — don’t dump on your children.
Everyone thinks about the non-custodial parent when it comes to visitation rights. Be sure to include the grandparents in this discussion. A divorce doesn’t have to curtail all grandparent(al) contact.
Be continually aware of the impact transitions will have on the children’s relationship with grandparents. Utilize existing technology for mainting communication between grandparent(s) and grandchild(ren) and help keep their relationship thriving.
Some of these pointers overlap and merge and separate much like lives do during a divorce. Using some commonsense and trying to keep a level head will go a long ways towards helping the children maintain the relationship with grandparents — even after the divorce.