Gone are the days of staying together for the children. Divorce is rough on everyone, but kids are not a reason why you should stay in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship. We’ve developed our co-parenting skills until we’ve got it down to a science, but one that can be difficult is helping our kids form a relationship with their grandparents — especially our ex’s parents. How can you help nourish your children’s relationship with them?
Nourish Your Children’s Relationship Your Ex’s Parents
Maintain Regular Contact
How often do your kids talk to your parents? Calling grandma and grandpa can be a fun way to stay in contact, but it shouldn’t be limited to one set of grandparents. If they call your parents once a week, or video chat since visiting is currently discouraged, they should be doing the same thing with your ex-in-laws.
It might sound like an easy step, but if you’re only talking to your ex’s parents on holidays or during major events, you’re leaving them out of a large part of their grandchildren’s lives. That makes it hard to build a relationship. If you’re not sure what they could talk about during their weekly calls, maybe schedule them for later in the evening. That way, grandma and grandpa can read them a bedtime story over the phone or video chat.
Make It a Co-parenting Rule
Even if you and your ex aren’t on the best of terms, you should create a set of co-parenting rules that help define your behavior around each other and the kids. If nourishing a relationship between your children and your ex’s parents is important to you, make sure it’s defined in your expectations.
Rules help outline your behavior so you don’t have to spend a lot of time conversing with one another outside of the context of your children. This is helpful if you’re not on good terms. They can also ensure neither one of you is going to interfere with the relationship your children are building with their respective grandparents.
Be Prepared for Anything
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for everything. The spread of the coronavirus has made visiting friends and family members — especially those that are elderly or have underlying health conditions — anathema because we could be putting them at risk.
Make sure you’re prepared for the unpredictable. That might sound impossible, because how can you get ready for something you can’t predict? However, if you take the right steps, nothing will surprise you.
Keep Things Civil
This should be one of your most important co-parenting rules, whether grandparents are involved or not. Everyone should be required to keep things civil. Don’t talk crap about your ex or their parents around your kids. Don’t let your ex or your former in-laws disparage you and your parenting methods.
This can be a deal-breaker, so if you want to foster a relationship between your children and your ex-in-laws, make sure everyone is on the same page. If anyone breaks that rule, you may need to limit contact with them until they understand the consequences of their actions. It sounds harsh, but even if you’re not in a relationship anymore, co-parenting is still a partnership. Everyone has to be on the same page, or it all falls apart.
Keep Them Involved in Holidays
This step might require a bit of creative scheduling, especially if the two halves of your family aren’t on the best of terms. However, holidays are an important part of relationship-building, especially for grandparents. You’ve got a lot of options here. You can have one big joint holiday gathering if everyone is on speaking terms with one another and can remain civil for a few hours for the sake of their grandchildren.
If that isn’t possible, consider multiple holiday celebrations held on different days. Visit your parents one day and your ex’s parents next. The following year, visit the ex’s parents first, and then yours so everything is balanced. Whatever you do, make sure you’re keeping everyone involved in the holidays they celebrate.
Remember — They’re Still Family
Even if things fell apart between you and your ex, once you have kids together, your in-laws are still family. They deserve to have a relationship with their grandchildren. While there may be situations where this kind of relationship isn’t possible or wanted, you need to do everything in your power to keep communications open.
You don’t have to compromise your parenting style to help your children build a relationship with your ex’s parents, but you owe it to them to help them connect with their grandparents on both sides of the family. Your kids will be happier for it, and you can show them the value of strong family connections.