Dear Grandma & Grandpa, My Parents are Getting Divorced.

By Marlo Van Oorschot
Van Oorschot Law Group PC

There is no greater pain for a grandparent than to hear their child and grandkids are going to experience the breakup of their family.  Grandparents want to do what they do best, help; but grandparents must be mindful that this is not their divorce.  Grandparents may feel stuck in the middle supporting their child’s desire to leave or stay in their marriage, while often believing the breakup of the family is indisputably the worst thing for young children. Most grandparents are emotionally conflicted between their child’s needs and the needs of their grandchildren.  Grandparents can help their grandchildren cope with their parents’ divorce but for most, it will not be easy. However, being prepared helps.

  1. Stay neutral.  Do not interfere with the love your grandchildren have for both of their parents.  Children will not articulate it, but they are very well aware they are a product of both of their parents and children should never be made to feel that part of them is bad.  When speaking to grandchildren about their parent’s divorce, keep it neutral, positive and assure the children they are loved by everyone.  If you feel the children are struggling with the divorce, then talk to the parents about your concerns.  
  2. Be cordial to the other parent.  Divorce does not end the family but rather reorganizes the family. The means you will see the other parent at family events that involve the grandchildren, such as graduations, weddings and other milestones.  The sooner a positive and cordial relationship and interactions are established the better.  
  3. Be understanding of change.  New family traditions will need to be established because your grandchildren will spend some holidays and special events with the other parent.  Understanding this is going to happen and working to establish new traditions with positivity will support the children in minimizing their own sadness of the change in family traditions.  
  4. Be calm, fun, and supporting.  The grandchildren are going to have plenty of stress going through the divorce.   A grandparent can be the respite for grandchildren by showing calm in the face of stress; that fun can still be had even during challenging times.  Grandparents should spend time with their grandchildren, do something fun and be the safe place where the children can forget the very adult world of divorce.  

Grandparents will be sad about divorce striking their family, but grandparents have a very special and important role in divorce for grandchildren.  Grandparents can be the “safe spot” for the grandchildren if their emotions are tucked away from the grandchildren by focusing on neutrality, love, fun and support.  A grandparent has an opportunity to show strength in the face of this storm in a way that demonstrates to children that one can have grace under fire. These are life lessons that will no doubt impact the children forever, so make the healthy and positive choice of being a member – a leader – of this reorganized family.