Divorce affects everyone in a family and it will take time to get used to new routines and circumstances. When parents divorce, extended family may find they see less of the children, or may be called on to help out with childcare and support the newly separated couple as they adjust to single parenting. Grandparents in particular may find it difficult to know how to help their children and grandchildren through this transition: perhaps they suddenly find themselves without access to their grandchildren, or aren’t sure where they fit in any more, or simply aren’t able to provide the support they’d like to.
If you’re a grandparent feeling stuck in the middle of your child’s divorce, remember that you will all need to adapt to the new situation and even if you’re not able to see your grandchildren as much as you’d like, there are still ways for you to be there for them.
What can grandparents do to help?
Listen to your grandchildren: Be aware that if you feel like you’re stuck in the middle of an impossible situation, your grandchildren are likely to feel even more so. Let them talk if they need to, and try to take an objective and neutral position. They may feel like they can’t talk openly to their own parents, whereas grandparents can provide extra support and a safe space, once-removed from the immediate situation. Whether it’s on the phone or by email or in person, offer a friendly and impartial ear.
Help facilitate easier communication: If it helps, act as a go-between for your child and their ex, or your grandchildren and their parents. Divorce is such an intensely emotional time, but you may be able to open up channels of communication more easily and reduce stress by offering a middle ground.
Provide a good role model: During the upheaval of separation, grandparents can represent familiarity and solid ground for their grandchildren. You may be one of the only constants in their life right now – so take the opportunity to show them that you love them, and even though some relationships might break down, your relationship with them remains the same.
Offer practical help: If you live nearby, help by offering practical as well as emotional support – be it childcare, pick-ups from school, help setting up a new home, accompanying your own child to solicitor appointments, or simply being there when you’re needed most.
Recognise your own needs: Divorce can be stressful and emotional. Don’t push yourself too hard. It’s natural to want to do as much as possible to help your child and grandchildren, but it’s also important to be aware of your own needs. Sometimes we all need someone to listen when we’re feeling overwhelmed – make sure you have your own avenues of support and know that it’s okay to say ‘no’ sometimes.
Stand up for your rights: But don’t trample on your child or in law. That is a sure way to create division in the family and reduce your chances of being part of your grandchild’s life. Being denied access to your grandchildren can be deeply upsetting. Remember that nothing is set in stone, and you’re all going through a period of transition. First, try talking – mediation is an effective way to resolve disputes in a safe and objective environment, and can be incorporated into the separation process to enable you to safeguard your relationship with your grandchildren. If things cannot be resolved through discussion, grandparents can seek further legal action through a court order, but it’s essential to seek legal advice to ensure that all other options have been exhausted.
Frances Lindsay & Co offer a range of options for separating couples, including mediation, arbitration, collaborative family law and divorce. In all cases, we will do our best to take the weight off your shoulders and ensure that children’s well-being remain at the centre of any legal decisions. To speak to a friendly, down-to-earth family lawyer, visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01628 634667.
Tags: divorce, family law, mediation, Thames valley lawyer, Thames valley solicitor