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Divorced Grandparents

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Divorced Grandparents Competing

While divorce is certainly more common than it was even a generation ago it still comes with its own unique challenges. Often, the difficulties are not limited to the couple, since their friends and family are affected, too. If a childless couple divorces, it may be possible for them to completely and permanently sever ties, but if they have children together, there are bound to be occasions when they will be expected to interact. When grandchildren come into the picture, divorced grandparents need to exercise special sensitivity to avoid making awkward family situations for their grandchildren.

Making Peace

Ideally, grandparents will choose to call a truce and put their differences to rest, once and for all, for the sake of family harmony. The arrival of the first grandchild signifies the beginning of a new chapter in the family’s history. In the best of scenarios, grandparents not only tolerate, but like and respect their ex, willingly including them (and their new spouse, if applicable) in family events. While many grandparents choose to bestow a new baby with many gifts, one of the most valuable of all would be a family environment of harmony.

Sometimes, hard feelings exist between divorced couples even if many years have passed since they went their separate ways. Not only is this unhealthy for them, it undoubtedly puts other family members in thorny situations at times. Adult children may have grown accustomed to the maneuvering that is necessary to avoid discord, but the grandchildren offer fresh perspectives. Dedicating themselves to healthy interaction is a way that grandparents can offer their families the opportunity to rewrite the family story with a much happier outcome.

Respecting the Other Grandparent’s Place with the Children

In cases where divorced couples find it impossible to interact respectfully for the sake of the family, the next best alternative is for them to afford ample time for the other to have uninterrupted visits with the grandkids. If both grandparents cannot attend birthday parties and other family celebrations without causing discomfort, they need to agree to alternate the times that they spend with the grandchildren so that both have the opportunity to develop relationships with the kids.

For example, one grandparent may attend the planned birthday celebration while the other agrees to see the child on a day before long. At the next family party, the grandparents can switch, allowing each to attend half of the time. While this is nowhere near a perfect solution, it may be a workable one.

Thinking of the Grandchildren

While grandparents are often indulgent of their grandchildren, difficult family dynamics may make for strained relationships. In order to provide their families with more comfortable interaction, divorced grandparents can vow to make a conscious effort to keep their differences to themselves. This will allow each of them to develop healthy relationships with family members without putting their loved ones in a position of feeling like they must “choose sides.” Some ideas to help grandparents keep things running smoothly include:

  • Never badmouth the other grandparents to the grandkids. If you need to vent your frustrations, do so with a trusted friend.

  • Avoid falling into the practice of trying to outshine your ex in the eyes of the grandchildren by lavishing them with gifts. This is not a competition for “best grandparent” and grandparents should never try to buy the affection of their grandkids. Share fond memories of your ex with the grandchildren. Telling stories about happy times shows the grandchildren that although you are longer married, you still hold their other grandparent in high esteem.

Final Thoughts

Children come into the world innocent and accepting. They will develop a natural love for the people who treat them with kindness and make them feel valued. Today’s kids live in a complicated world filled with a variety of stresses. Grandparents can avoid adding unnecessary difficulties to the lives of their grandchildren by promoting an attitude of acceptance and forgiveness, beginning with the relationship that they have with their ex.

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