Having children is a major milestone in one’s life. However, when you reach the point that your own kids are having children, you feel truly blessed. Parents may worry about everything when raising their kids. Are they serving healthy foods? Are their discipline techniques working? Will their children come to them with problems as they grow? But as a grandparent, you tend simply to hope that you’ve taught your kids well enough for them to raise strong grandchildren.
Sometimes your child may experience difficulties, such as during a divorce, when your grandchildren should not have to be strong on their own. It’s during times like these when they should know that they can lean on you for support and love.
Your son or daughter will also lean on you as he or she moves forward with the divorce, not only asking for your advice, but also for your time. You may need to consult a lawyer for grandparents rights because you will be asked to watch the grandkids more than usual. While any time you get to spend with your grandchildren is special, times like these are crucial. Your main goal should be to bring happiness and structure to your grandchildren’s lives throughout and after the divorce.
Here are eight ways to help support your grandchildren during their parents’ divorce:
One: Be There
When everything else is an uncertainty, be the constant in your grandchild’s life. Show up for their school performances. Pick up the grandkids on a random Tuesday from school. Invite them over for a sleepover with promises of grandma’s famous brownies and grandpa’s root beer floats. Take pictures of these times, too. You want the grandchildren to remember these months as more than the divorce; you want them to remember the pillow forts at grandma’s house and the water balloon fight inside. Create happiness, and then capture it in time.
Two: Offer Comfort
Being with your grandkids brings comfort not only to them, but to you as well. Catching fireflies in the dusk or sneaking a bite of cookie dough are things you may have done as a child. These activities allow you to rebuild your own memories into new ones with your grandchildren.
Divorce can be devastating to children. As everything your grandchildren know about life, love, and stability begins to physically break apart in front of them, grandparents can offer solace in the form of empathy. According to one study, hugging increases levels of oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, in people experiencing relationship conflict. Offering plenty of hugs and creating a comfortable environment free of tension or stress for your grandchildren is paramount. What are their favorite foods? Do they have a baby blanket or favorite stuffed animal? What can you do to make them feel as comforted as possible?
Another way to comfort your grandchild is by reading to them. Tell them stories about your childhood. Read to them about magical lands. Let them imagine a world so fantastical that they can’t help but to smile when they think about it.
Three: Keep A Routine
Change is difficult, simple as that. Humans are creatures of habit, and when something or someone comes along and disrupts our routine, we panic. But as a grandparent, you can offer a source of stability. You might be watching the grandkids more both now and after the divorce has been settled, but by communicating with both parents about the routine of the kids—school pick up, sports practices, extra curricular activities, ice cream dates—you are helping keep some degree of normalcy.
Four: Reinforce Strength
Your grandchildren are vulnerable at this point in their lives, but they do not need to be babied. In valuing and recognizing their strength through simple tasks, you can help rebuild their confidence in themselves. You are already so proud of your grandchildren; let them know it. Ask them to teach you how to do something or give them a simple chore to help out.
Five: Develop A New Hobby
Introduce your grandchild to a new hobby that you both can share together. By asking your grandchild to do something that is both simple yet mature will have her looking forward to spending time with you. You can take nature photographs together, developing the images and displaying them proudly in your home. You can garden together, teaching your young grandchildren the fun of growing their own food. Or perhaps you can learn something that your grandchild is already involved in, allowing him to teach you something new.
Six: Treat Them Like An Adult
Now you don’t need to grunt about back pain and talk about stocks with your grandkids. They’re not really adults yet, they’re just going through a life shift that has created a bit of a tear in the bubble of their childhood. They have begun to see that fairytales aren’t real life and that movies and books don’t always tell the truth about happy endings. As their grandparent, you are a source of wisdom to the children. You’ve been through this whole crazy life thing that they’re just now getting a rude awakening to.
It is likely that they will have questions about life and about love. You should always reinforce the positive affirmation that your grandchildren are extremely loved and that no decision that their parents made had to do with anything in their control. Talk to your grandchildren respectfully and recognize that they have the right to be sad and angry. Above all, be an active listener. The dishes can wait and so can your TV show. There is no mundane task that is more important than giving your grandchild your attention. Children need attention, especially if they feel as if they aren’t getting any attention from their parents due to the divorce.
Seven: Maintain A Relationship With Both Parents
It will not serve anyone to act with animosity toward the parent your child is divorcing. Children are easily influenced by the opinions of those around them, particularly someone they love and trust. If you show resentment or anger towards their parent, your grandchildren may develop negative feelings, also. They may even begin to distrust you.
The other parent will still be a part of your life by extension of your grandkids. Talk with your child about the boundaries of co-parenting and their expectations for your relationship with his or her ex-spouse, so that you can maintain mutual respect and contribute to a positive environment for the grandchildren years after the divorce.
Eight: Do Not Assign Blame
Children are naturally curious and will ask questions about anything and everything. If your grandchildren question you regarding their parents’ divorce, be prepared with an answer and be sure that you do not lay blame on either parent.
Planning ahead for this inevitable question not only ensures that your answer is comprehensive and age-appropriate, but also guarantees a confident response that puts your grandchild at ease. Reassure your grandchildren that the divorce was not their fault and never blame either parent either. It will not benefit anyone in the family to carry the weight of a failed marriage.
As you go through this life change with your child and grandchildren, take the time to recognize that you are human, too. You might make mistakes when you are just trying to make your grandchild’s life easier, but you’re trying, and that’s the important part. Remember to act with empathy, respect, and intent. Time is the most valuable thing you have with your grandchildren, and with these eight steps, you can make it count, especially in this season of adversity and hurt.