When families go through divorce, children may feel confused, sad and uncertain while their parents work through the proceedings. Divorce is often a difficult experience for the entire family, but there are many things that can be done to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Grandparents, especially, may be uniquely positioned to provide extra stability as their grandchildren navigate the roller coaster of emotions common to divorce.
If you’re a grandparent who’s able to remain involved while your grandchildren experience divorce, here are four ways you can continue to be supportive.
1. Speak kindly of both parents, regardless of familial ties.
Whether you have an ongoing, healthy relationship with the parents of your grandchild or not, make a point to speak positively about them in front of your grandchild. Kids shouldn’t feel the need to take sides when they’re at home or when they’re spending time with grandparents. Even if you feel loyal to one parent over the other, do your best to maintain equanimity and stay impartial while you’re spending time with the grandkids.
2. Stick to the same structure and rules the parents have chosen.
It may be tempting to give grandchildren everything they ask for and to spoil them with treats in an attempt to boost their happiness, but structure and routine will serve them better during this time of uncertainty. Later bedtimes, lots of sugar, and bending the rules will only compound their anxiety, so try to keep things as normal as possible for your grandkids whenever they visit and spend time with you.
3. Maintain traditions for the kids, even if that looks different after divorce.
Though it may be possible for you to continue seasonal or holiday traditions with grandchildren post-divorce, you may need to change the specifics so they’ll continue to work for your family. For instance, if you need to celebrate Thanksgiving a week late because of conflicting parent schedules, do your best to make it work instead of dwelling on the way things used to be and letting the season pass without celebration. If it’s not possible to maintain an old tradition, start a new one so your grandkids know they can look forward to your presence in their lives no matter what.
4. Reassure grandchildren often of your love for them and your continuing relationship.
Most importantly, keep reminding your grandchildren how much you love them and will always be available to them. Tell them as many times as possible that your love for them won’t change even though their parents’ marriage is ending. This may seem obvious to you, but the more your grandkids hear you say this, the better!
During and after divorce, grandparents continue to play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Maintaining stability doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, simplicity often helps kids feel more grounded. If you’re a grandparent who just wants to love your grandkids while they process their parents’ divorce, stay involved and be available.