December 14, 2012

How grandparents can bring festive cheer to divorce gloom

For grandparents facing their first Christmas with newly divorced sons or daughters, their relationships with their own grown up children and their grandchildren will become even more important.

When parents divorce, children find themselves living in an environment which can sometimes be strained and the home of the grandparents becomes a safe haven, somewhere that offers consistency and a place where they can open up about their feelings.

The fun aspects of grand parenting will obviously still remain such as treating the children to ice-creams and letting them stay up late to watch their favourite Disney film, but being a grandparent after a divorce will initially be a little more complicated. Take a little time to think about the visits and plan the day to help distract grandchildren from their parents’ problems.

If you are finding yourself in this position this Christmas, here are some tips that might help:

  1. Stay connected with your child and their former partner. It is understandable that you will be feeling disappointed and let down but distancing yourself from them at this family-focussed time of the year will cause problems further down the line.
  2. Grandparents can play a key role in helping their grandchildren through a divorce. Try to focus on your relationship with them rather than the disintegrating relationship of their parents. Children need reassurance that the divorce is not their fault so the empathy and warmth from their grandparents will be critical.
  3. If the parents can’t agree about who will have the children at Christmas, you could offer to host it yourselves, making it more of a neutral environment for the family. However, if emotions are running high, then it may be better to have separate celebrations initially. Think about whether the children would prefer to see everyone together or whether two celebrations are more appealing for them.
  4. Consider the other grandparents and be diplomatic with them. You may disagree with how their child has behaved, but in the interests of maintaining stability for the grandchildren going forward, it will be helpful to maintain a relationship with them. Think about whether you will celebrate with them at Christmas; it might be beneficial to invite them round for a festive drink.
  5. Make time for your grandchildren if they want to talk about the difficulties but above all avoid criticism of their parents.

What other tips do you have on how grandparents of newly-divorced people can make Christmas easier? Comment below, e-mail us, or send us a tweet @HelpWithDivorce.