Updated: Dec 22, 2020
As a Divorce Coach, I come across many families torn apart by Divorce and there are many innocent parties involved. Foremost is the impact on the children, but there are other victims of divorce, such as their grandparents. According to Legal Aid, “Grandparents do not have an automatic right to have a relationship with a grandchild”
The parents of the children may not be agreeing to the amount of time each parent will have with the children, let alone how much time the grandparents will get with the grandchildren. This has an enormous impact on the grandparents who may have had a very close bond with the grandchildren, or may have had after school care responsibilities or enjoyed seeing the grandchildren regularly at family events.
The grandparents feel the loss of their grandchildren through the divorce due to restricted access to seeing them through no fault of their own being a victim of circumstance. The restricted access can be indirect through having to share the children across split families at festive times of the year or direct as access has been deliberately stopped as one of the parents fights to gain access themselves.
It is so important for the divorcing parents to understand the important role the grandparents play in a child’s life especially when the children are suffering grief from the family unit breakdown. A grandparent can offer unconditional love and fond memories that can help the child feel they have familiar surroundings to gain comfort. The parents can enable the children to take time out from the reality of their new life adjustments to a familiar safe haven of love and affection. As the parents adjust to sole parenting the grandparents can help out in an emergency to relieve stress and be part of a much needed support network. The grandchildren have already lost the immediate family unit structure in its original form, so it’s important they don’t lose contact with the extended family structure so they feel safe and secure knowing the grandparents are there to turn to if needed.
It is so important for grandparents to stay impartial to the divorce. The impact and outcome discussed in front of the grandchildren, attacking one of the parents can cause upset to the grandchild which may have adverse long term impact on their relationship with that grandchild.
The children just want to be with both parents so it is not constructive to lash out about what is going on between the two parents. Reassurance to the grandchildren that both parents and grandparents love them very much is paramount through this traumatic time for all.
Both parents when negotiating parenting plans should include access to the grandparents and agree how festive holidays will be planned so the grandchildren get to stay connected and enjoy time with extended families. Attending family events should be seen by both parents as being important for the children to attend even if it is not on the other parent’s week! There will be a time when you would want the children at your family event so being rigid with time access can backfire on you too.
Divorcing parents are going through a traumatic time, but so are the innocent parties, grandparents and grandchildren. Do the right thing in ensuring the impact is minimised for everyone as it can have damaging effects for many years thereafter.