If your adult child and their spouse are divorcing, you may wonder how that will impact your relationship with your grandchildren – particularly if they’re young and depend on their parents to connect with you, either in person or via phone or video chat. You may be concerned that your child’s soon-to-be ex-spouse will interfere with that relationship.
Your grandchildren may need you more than ever. They may feel more comfortable opening up to you than their own parents. It can be difficult to know what to say – particularly if you are unhappy about the divorce or the actions of one of their parents in particular.
While every situation is different, here are some tips for how you can help your grandchildren through their parents’ breakup.
Find out what they have been told
Talk to your child to determine what they and their spouse have told their kids about the divorce and what the custody and visitation arrangements are. This will help prevent you from saying anything that will surprise or confuse them. If serious issues like alcoholism or drug addiction have contributed to the divorce, find out how your child wants you to address any tough questions your grandkids might ask you.
Acknowledge their feelings and provide reassurance
Tell them that it is okay to be angry, sad, anxious or confused. This is a good time to reassure them that you will still be there for them and that both of their parents love them and will continue to take care of them.
Don’t speak negatively about either of their parents
Even if you think your daughter-in-law is a no-good cheat or your son threw away a perfectly good marriage by spending too much time at work, don’t share those feelings with your grandchildren. Badmouthing either parent is a sure way to end up seeing less of your grandchildren.
Expect behavioral changes
Kids of all ages often experience behavioral changes during parental divorce. Younger kids may revert to behaviors they had outgrown. Teens may become more withdrawn or get in to trouble. All kids can become more temperamental and contrarian. Don’t take these changes personally, but make sure your child is aware of them if you see or hear something that concerns you.
If you’re the parent who’s divorcing, it can be helpful to share this advice with children’s grandparents so that they can be part of the support system your kids need.