If your child is going through a divorce, you are likely facing a myriad of emotions. You have watched the toll that the end of the marriage has taken on her, rearranged your calendar and attended court hearings. You might have even contributed money toward legal fees.
In addition, your grandchildren likely feel torn and disrupted as they are shuffled between the two parents. What can you do as a grandparent to help those you love navigate this challenging process?
1. Appreciate that the dynamics of your relationships with your child and grandchildren might change. The children, for instance, may now need to split up their time between their parents, which cuts time with mom in half. That means that time with you will likely decrease accordingly as well. Meanwhile, your daughter will likely need time and space to rebuild her life after the separation.
2. Provide non-judgmental support for your daughter. If you can help financially or logistically, extend an offer. Appreciate that she might react emotionally and in ways that you might find irrational or that mirror the family dynamics when she was young and lived with you.
3. Don’t attack the children’s dad in front of anyone. While he might have acted reprehensibly during the divorce or separation, he is still the children’s father and your daughter’s ex. Cutting him down or engaging in alienating behavior serves no one’s needs.
4. Avoid offering help if you can’t physically or financially handle the responsibilities. If you’re in your 60s or 70s, for instance, you may not be able to wrangler toddlers all day. If you’re retired, you might not have money freed up to pay everyone’s bills or fund things like family vacations. Be upfront and firm about these limitations.
5. Listen actively. You may not be a therapist, but you can still provide insight and support. Strive to be empathetic. Reflect the feelings and needs that you hear as opposed to just giving advice, offering sympathy or telling stories about your own experiences.