Boomers helping grandkids through a divorce

There are some things about being baby boomers that we can’t deny and one of them is, we’re old enough to have not just children, but grandchildren. That means nothing but joy unless there’s a divorce in the making. Then it means strife and stress. Julie Gorges of Palm Desert, California, is in the middle of the process right now, and has some advice to boomers to help your grandchildren through a divorce.

My son’s tumultuous divorce and custody case was recently finalized.

Divorce was foreign territory to me. My husband and I have been fortunate to be married for 38 years. My parents were married for almost 60 years before my Mom died last summer. This, in fact, is the first divorce in our family.

So, questions danced around my head while going through this process.

Should I ask my grandchildren if they want to discuss their feelings about the divorce? If they don’t bring it up, should I? How could I provide a low stress environment for the grandchildren to help them escape the drama? What could I do to help them feel secure and optimistic about the future?

In other words, how could I best help my grandchildren whom I love and adore through this tumultuous time?

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

Don’t Prod

Julie Gorges

Surprisingly, my grandchildren rarely mentioned the divorce. If this is the case, does it mean you should even bring it up? Experts say no. A grandparent’s responsibility is to provide a loving, safe, and secure haven, not spend time investigating and delving into the children’s thoughts and feelings about a divorce.

Be Supportive

What if the children bring up the subject? Experts suggest listening attentively, reassuring them that the divorce wasn’t their fault, offering lots of love and hugs, and expressing your love, understanding, and sympathy.

However, be careful what you say. You may be experiencing some of the same feelings as your grandchildren like stress, disappointment, anger, and disillusionment. Resist the temptation to express your own feelings, because that might make the children feel like they must comfort and support you.

Avoid Being Critical

Don’t badmouth the other parent or, for that matter, either parent. This includes sarcastic remarks you think are going above the children’s heads, or discussing the divorce when they’re nearby. Keep your personal opinions to yourself and remember that your grandchildren love both their parents.

Provide a Safe Haven

Strive to make the children’s time with you low-key and relaxing. Instead of focusing on the children’s parents’ disintegrating relationship, keep the focus on your loving relationship with your grandchildren.

Do activities that you know from experience your grandchildren find calming. Listen to music or read books with them. Find a funny movie and munch on popcorn. Play silly games. Keep things as close to normal as possible.

Stay Positive

Try not to be overly sympathetic or even worse, pessimistic. Avoid the attitude, “My grandchildren will never get over this and will be scarred forever.” This kind of negative thinking will affect them adversely.

Instead, think positively: “My grandchildren are resilient and have a wonderful ability to adjust. They’ll survive this divorce while cultivating strength and fortitude that will help them later in life.”

So, those are the five lessons I learned on my journey. Let your grandchildren know that things are going to be all right. Be a real asset to them during this difficult time and they’ll thank you as adults.

6 Comments

  1. You are indeed fortunate that this is uncharted territory for you. I knew firsthand about the pain of divorce and that made it even harder to see my child go through it. I agree that the best role a grandparent can play in this drama is to be the calm harbor in the storm.

  2. Thans for sharing; this is a difficult subject, and isn’t easy for any family. The child you love may or may not have had the major responsibility for initiating the divorce – and you can’t focus on that. Because it doesn’t matter whose fault it is.

    It is sad, but it may also be the end of acrimonious lving conditions that were also bad for the kids and grandkids. And it will be a long haul afterward – at a minimum until the children leave home, but may affect family holidays and college financing and future weddings and…

    My sympathies. But it sounds as if you’ve found out how to help. I’ve watched a friend do just that, support the dissolving family as well as they could.

  3. Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts. I’m sure you are right, challenges are ahead, but I can only hope the worst is over and we will find our way through this, putting the children first. Wish us luck through this tricky process!

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