Tell Me About It
Q: How do grandparents help their grandchildren cope when their parents file for divorce?
A: A divorce is heartbreaking for all those involved –– the spouses, the children, the grandparents, friends. Relationships all around the divorcing couple shift and change, and it is important for grandparents to actively cultivate their bond with their grandchildren during this time of stress and chaos in their young lives.
First, no matter how wrong the soon-to-be-ex’s behavior may be, they are still the parent, and the children still love and need them. So, grandparents must watch their words when they discuss the other parent in front of the children. Also, maintaining a respectful relationship with the other parent, especially if he or she will be the custodial parent, will help the grandparents maintain a loving and close relationship with the children.
Grandchildren also need a safe place to talk, as well as a safe place not to talk. At times, the children will need to discuss their concerns and fears and hurts; they will need the reassurance grandparents can provide. Other times, they will need a place where the divorce doesn’t follow them, and grandparents can provide that place of peace.
Children, especially young children, may blame themselves, and grandparents can help reassure them that they cannot control their parents’ feelings or emotions. They have enough responsibility just learning the alphabet and surviving recess; they cannot take on the responsibility of their parents’ marriage as well.
Finally, grandparents can simply love their grandchildren. For isn’t that what we all need when we are having a bad day or week or month? No one will say or do the right thing every time. But a grandparent can always, always love.
Angel Donnette Robertson is not a professional counselor, but she has a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and complications of relationships.
Have a relationship question for Angel? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. She will select reader questions to answer, along with questions she finds, in upcoming issues of Inside Columbia’s Prime.