When grandparents are divorced
"Why are Grandma and Grandpa divorced?" is a tough question, but we have answers.
Here's what you need to know about everything from navigating family events to knowing how much to share — or not share — about family dynamics when your child's grandparents are divorced.
How much is TMI?
Whether your child is very young or a teenager, she will probably ask why her grandparents are divorced. How much information you share is up to you, but the actual details — and you may not even know all of them — aren't needed.
Dr. Fran Walfish, child, couple and family therapist, says, "Parents should keep it general, simple, truthful and brief. Don't shove too much unnecessary information down your kids' throats — it's more information than they need. The main points they need to know are that their grandparents once loved each other very much, their kids and grandkids were born out of love, and they now feel it's best for them and their family if they live in two separate houses."
How to reassure your kids
"The issue here is the silent fantasy life of your children. They will likely worry — 'If my grandparents can divorce then will the same happen to my parents?' — that is a very scary thought to a child."
Everyone argues at some point. Be clear with your kids that while you and your partner may fight sometimes, you still love each other and it doesn't mean you're going to get divorced like Grandma and Grandpa.
Walfish suggests saying this: "You know, Grandma and Grandpa were not very good at talking with each other about things. In our family we talk about our feelings — even powerful ones like anger. It's good to talk together. Sometimes, when two people don't talk together they grow apart in different directions — that's what happened with Grandma and Grandpa."
How to handle special family events
If you live far away from your parents, it may be easier to navigate visits and family events — Grandma can visit one day, Grandpa another. But what if you all live nearby? You may have grown up with two birthday parties or holiday events, but that may not be what you want for your children.
Then there's the issue of extra special life moments like graduations, religious rites of passage or weddings — yes, having divorced grandparents can still be tricky even when the grandchildren are all grown up — and you're probably not going to have two ceremonies.
Walfish says, "Parents should invite and encourage both grandparents to attend family life events. In most cases, it helps the kids and grandkids to feel they are part of a united family."