You feel like a stranger in a strange world. You want to support your own child during a divorce but you also want to continue to be a good grandparent. Following these 5 steps will help you accomplish both.
1. Be Realistic. If you had a rocky relationship with your child’s ex or his or her family, know that you face an uphill battle. If you can be conciliatory, try to mend those fences for the sake of your grandchildren. If you know that’s not possible, work with your own child to see your grandchildren and remain a part of their life.
2. Your Child First. You may want to continue to have contact with your child’s soon-to-be-ex spouse – especially if that facilitates seeing your grandchildren. Don’t make that call until you have checked with your own child. If a serious betrayal led to the divorce, your child may not want you to see the spouse. You don’t want to jeopardize your parent-child relationship so start with an open dialogue. If you can, set some guidelines that let you get in touch with the ex. If not, make sure that you will be able to continue your relationship with your grandchildren through your child, their mother or father.
3. Open the Door. Once you have cleared it with your child, make the first contact with his or her ex-spouse. Divorces are difficult and, even, if you had a great relationship with the person during the marriage, he or she may not feel comfortable contacting you. You can use the phone, email or a handwritten note. If there is something you routinely did like picking up the grandkids after soccer practice, offer to continue to help.
4. Be Positive – or at Least Neutral. This is an important rule. You don’t want to tell you child that you always thought the ex was a bum or add fuel to the fire of any divorce issues. It’s not going to help the situation. Listen to your own child. Make a sympathetic noise or say “I understand how you must feel” or “You are going to be just fine”. Don’t bad mouth the other person. Joining the fray and taking sides will only serve to make co-parenting harder for the divorced couple and, as the very emotional feelings of the divorce die down with time, you may regret what you said.
5. Be a Safe Haven for your Grandchildren. Keep your activities with them as normal as possible. Don’t bring up the divorce, but if they do, respect their confidence. Again, stay positive or neutral. Keep your side of the conversation to things like “you know both of your parents still love you very much” or “yes, this is a hard time for everyone”. Don’t repeat what your grandchildren say to you to either parent. If an issue comes up that you feel you must address, address it as an issue, not as what the child said. For example, “I think it would be good for both the father and mother to attend Tim’s soccer game” – not “Tim said he wants his Dad there, too”.
If you feel that your rights as a grandparent will not be respected, don’t be afraid to contact a family law attorney for legal help. The courts want to decide every issue concerning the children in the children’s best interest. If you need legal help, reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer or a family law attorney. Be the best grandparent you can be by staying involved in the lives of your grandchildren.