How to navigate grandparenting after divorce

Apr 13, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

Being a grandparent is often seen as a fun and exciting experience. You get to hang out with your grandchildren and do all the fun things with them, but you also get to give them back to your children, sometimes sugared up to their eyeballs! But what happens when your child divorces, and you’re now faced with a split in the family?

Here are some tips from Perth family lawyer Ella Hickman, on how to navigate grandparenting after divorce, with the best interests of your child and grandchildren in mind.

Support Your Child & Grandchildren

While you may feel sad, disappointed and worried about your adult child having to cope with the stress that comes with divorce, it is imperative that you remain supportive to theirs and your grandchildren’s needs, whatever they may be, in whatever way that you can. One way would be to keep to the same routines as far as possible and doing the same things with your grandchildren, retaining some form of consistency in their new separated lives. If you’re living close by, offer to fetch and carry the grandchildren to and from school or any event, assist them with homework, and just be there to listen or be present for them.

Doing any of these activities does not just help to strengthen the bond with your grandchildren, but helps to reduce their level of stress by instilling some normality in their lives. This in turn can also add satisfying sense of purpose to your own life. Whatever you do, just stay in contact and do whatever it takes that may ease their burden.

If you’re not living close to your grandchildren and unable to assist or visit on a regular basis, stay in contact via the phone, make video calls or even a simple text message, will make them feel loved and supported.

Be Their Safe Space

Most divorces result in major adjustments to a family’s routines, which can sometimes be bewildering and confusing for young children, especially during the early stages of the separation. It may involve moving home, perhaps changing school or even losing some of their friends.

While their world is being turned upside down, and they’re battling to adjust, do whatever you can to be their safe space as a constant presence in their lives.

By remaining cool, calm and loving, you will be setting an example for them to be the same and taking their minds off the stress they may be feeling at home, thus helping them to adjust to their new normal.

Actively Listen To Your Grandchildren

Children may sometimes tell their grandparents things they may not tell their own parents, so listen carefully when they talk. Keep the conversations normal, fun and casual, and don’t fish for information regarding the divorce or to pry on their other parent. Let them tell you what they want to tell you. If you get an inkling that they are distressed in any way, report that to either or both parents, or even a children’s helpline in extreme cases if need be.

Be Respectful Of Both Their Parents

No matter how biased you may be, it is usually best to keep your opinions to yourself and never be disrespectful towards either of your grandchildren’s parents, even if you can’t stand your child’s ex. You may not have to see them too often, but there will be special occasions, graduations, birthdays, or Christmas dos when it is unavoidable.

By staying polite and respectful to your child’s ex, you are actually protecting and shielding them from any unnecessary additional stress that they are already feeling. They may not realise that now, but once they mature, they will thank you for that.

By not taking sides and remaining respectful to all parties, you will gain your grandchildren’s trust, making it easier for them to confide in you. If you need to vent, do so when the grandchildren are not present.

Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Child’s Ex

As hard as it may sometimes be, maintaining a good relationship with your child’s ex, is so important in keeping the peace and generally making life that much easier for everybody. Having a good relationship with them reduces the tension that may already exist, paving the way to more pleasant joint family events in the future. It may also assist your child, if you can help with handovers and negotiations, so they don’t have to see or talk to their ex as frequently. Even if you dislike them, make every effort to remain cordial with them. Remember they may also be feeling a little awkward towards you as well.

Manage Your Own Emotions

This could be among the hardest things for any grandparent to do, especially when the divorce has been unexpected. As hard as that may be, it is absolutely vital to control your own emotions and remain calm at all times.

Depending on the circumstances, you may feel anger, disappointment and anxiety, but on the other hand, the divorce may also be leaving you with a sense of relief. Perhaps you may even feel a mix of all of these emotions at the same time. It’s ok – that’s normal too. Managing your emotions becomes a little easier when you focus strictly on doing whatever is in the best interests of your child and your grandchildren.

If you’re finding it difficult, don’t hesitate to talk to a friend who has no direct connection to the situation and may have been through a similar experience. There are also government funded organisations that can also offer advice and counselling for grandparents.

Respect Agreed Parenting Arrangements

One thing that is unavoidable after a divorce is the change of parenting arrangements, and sometimes they may not be to your liking. There are now two families involved and it may no longer be possible to see or have the grandchildren around as often as you did before. While it is often expected that rules at grandpa and grandma’s house may be a little less regimented than at home, try to make sure that the grandchildren can have fun without becoming completely unruly, as this could create drama for their parents when they return home.

Plan Ahead For Family Events & Special Occasions

Planning ahead for family events and special occasions after a divorce is essential. Birthdays, Christmas dinners and other family celebrations now need careful consideration when organising, and the plan may not always be to everyone’s liking.

Special days that were celebrated together in the past, may now have to be celebrated separately, which means that grandpas and grandmas may miss out sometimes. Planning ahead and accommodating everyone’s needs becomes crucial and can be difficult.

Planning ahead so everyone is aware of who is attending can make it much smoother when divorced families come together. In some cases, it might be easier to have two different events, as not everyone may be able to attend. If the divorce has been amicable though, do try and hold joint events together so everyone gets to celebrate and enjoy the occasion.

Make Them Feel Loved

Staying in contact with your grandchildren and always offering your love and support, will undoubtedly make them feel loved, especially during the early stages of their new family life when they need it the most.

Showing them love does not mean buying them expensive gifts or spending huge amount of money on them. All it takes for them to feel loved is by just being a true companion to play with, talk to, laugh with, and have fun with. Sometimes, the simplest of things, like preparing their favourite meal, playing a board game, watching their favourite TV program with them, taking them to a park, a movie or the beach, will be the thing that they will remember for the rest of their lives. And so will you.

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