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Grandparents and Divorce: Helping the Family Cope

While it used to be the case that families stayed together forever, the divorce rate now only continues to get higher. Since families are breaking up more often, a common question is what can a grandparent do to help their children, and grandchildren, through an emotionally fraught time? Below, we suggest ways you can support your whole family when your own child is going through a divorce or final separation.

Be supportive

Your child will be experiencing fraught and intense emotions. What they need right now is love, loyalty, and support, irrespective of their role in the marriage or relationship breakdown. Listen whenever they need to talk without passing judgment and encourage them to explore their feelings.

Stay impartial

Although you should give your child love and support, their partner is also a part of your family, and it’s best to remember they too will have painful feelings to deal with. Remind your child that, as far as possible, you’ll try not to take sides, however you’re happy to listen whenever they need you.

Suggest counselling and support

There may come a time when the help you can offer isn’t enough. Unless you’re a trained therapist; it’s best you suggest your child or their partner sees a counsellor or joins a support group. That way, you won’t get too embroiled in everything, and you may remain objective.

Maintain a relationship with your child’s partner

It’s particularly important, when you have grandchildren, to set an example for how best to deal with change and upheaval. Staying in contact with your child’s ex-partner, and maintaining a good relationship with them, shows your grandchildren how to act maturely and graciously during difficult times. Take this as an opportunity to pass on critical skills to your youngest family members.

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Listen to your grandchildren

Your grandchildren will be experiencing high levels of stress and upset, and they may not have anyone to turn to for help. Make sure they know that you’ll listen, offer support, and give advice whenever they need it. Ensure you don’t take sides and talk to your child if you have any concerns about how they’re behaving in front of the children, or if your grandchild has any safety worries.

Make sure to see your grandchildren often

Just as you should listen to them, you should make an effort to see your grandchildren as often as you usually do. If you have any shared activities, make sure you stick to them, so the children have a sense of normalcy. Make sure your home feels like a safe space for them and ensure they know they’re welcome whenever they want to see you.

Arrange with your child and their ex-partner to see your grandchildren at set times if visitation is a problem—make sure they know you want to maintain a relationship with your whole family.

Be prepared for the relationships which come next

Down the line, it’s possible you will become a step-grandparent and meet new children. Don’t force a relationship with them, but make sure they know you’re happy to see them and include them as part of the family. They, too, have most likely experienced the difficulty of broken relationships.

Manage social occasions

If you had a good relationship with your child’s ex-partner, be sure they know they are always welcome at social gatherings—unless your child has strong feelings against this. This is your opportunity to be the rock the whole family needs—be sure everyone knows you’re there for them all, whether it’s at a birthday or wedding.

If you’re a grandparent looking for more advice, download our helpful e-book which provides thorough information to help you deal with all eventualities.

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