By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
When divorce takes place, everyone in the family is affected. Often the impact on grandparents is overlooked amidst the turmoil involving parents and children. The results can be devastating for grandparents who want to be supportive and also stay in the lives of the children they love.
Grandparents frequently wonder, “How can I help and stay close to my grandkids when we are geographically separated?” Even more challenging, how do you cope as grandparents when the consequences of divorce may limit or end physical visits with the grandkids?
You do that in two important ways: 1) Maintain and strengthen the relationship you already have through available technology. 2) Use empathy and your best communication skills with your adult child’s former spouse.
Talking to your daughter or son-in-law …
If appropriate, ask permission to continue the relationship with the kids when they are with their other parent. Let the “Ex” know how much it means to you as well as the kids. Stress how important it is for children to have consistency with family in their lives following a divorce. Stay impartial. Don’t accuse or reprimand. Be respectful. This can be a challenging relationship dance for you, but it’s certainly worth it on behalf of your grandchildren.
Seek out the help of a Divorce Coach, therapist or support group if you are having problems and need guidance in forging this new relationship dynamic.
Enriching the grandparent-grandchild relationship …
Here are some ways you can stay in the lives of your grandchildren despite the divorce or distance between you:
1) Create a special Journal of activities that you can share with your grandkids. (Pre- or post- Covid, of course.) This might be a travelogue of places you’ve explored, people you’ve visited, movies you saw and other activities you’ve participated in. You can send them souvenirs from each place as something to show and talk about on your next phone call or video visit. These may include photographs, videos, tee shirts, colorful brochures, post-cards, hats, pens, etc.
2) Request the same from them. With Covid moving behind us, ask them to send you a story about places they visited, sports or parties they attended, school activities, pet updates, weekend adventures or other activities.
3) Send a video, email or text message “of the week” to the kids with a theme: such as the Favorite Meal or Dessert of the Week, Pet Trick of the Week, quote from a Favorite Book you’re both reading that week, Sports Tip or Joke of the Week, etc. – just to keep in touch.
4) Volunteer your time at a hospital, animal shelter, food distribution drive or other event in your community so you feel valued while interacting with and bringing joy to other kids. Then tell the grandchildren about your activities.
5) Make plans to see the same movie as your grandkids on the same day and then schedule a call to discuss the movie together and share the experience in your own way.
6) Do the same with favorite TV shows or chapters of a book so you have scheduled calls planned in which you discuss the characters and share your opinions about their situations.
7) Make a weekly or monthly video catching up on your life to send to the grandkids. Nothing fancy required. Have things to show on the video such as playing with your dog, new outfit you’ve bought, a new recipe you’ve tried, a new flower you’ve planted in the garden, etc.
Tips to maintain a long-term relationship …
Consistency, flexibility and unconditional love go a long way toward keeping and strengthening your bond with your grandchildren. Be there for them. Be understanding when they don’t always respond in the ways you desire or expect. Always speak kindly about both of their parents without taking sides.
Be aware of the transitions children go through as they age and enter different stages of growth and interests. Use age-appropriate language when talking with them.
Take advantage of all the blessings today’s technology provides for maintaining communication. That will keep your relationship with your grandkids thriving throughout their lives!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, author and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com. To learn more about her internationally acclaimed book on telling kids about divorce, visit http://www.howdoitellthekids.com.
All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca