Information for grandparents who want to help
Keep in mind that when a couple’s relationship breaks down, it does not just affect the parents and their child, it touches other family members in many ways too.
Grandparents often play a significant role in the practical care and support of grandchildren. In addition to this they often provide financial and emotional support to their children and grandchildren.
Being a grandparent is a precious role, with all the joys of spending time with and caring for a child with less of the stress. Most grandparents love their grandchildren, and grandchildren can thrive from that special relationship.
After a parental divorce or separation, the grandparents’ role can shift dramatically and what was once taken for granted can become fraught with complications, including divided loyalties. You can be torn between wanting to support your child through the painful process of separation and divorce and wanting to stay on good terms with your child’s ex-partner so that you can still play a part in your grandchild’s life.
After a separation, grandparents are faced with many dilemmas. These include:
Being called on for advice and support. You need to be good listeners while staying neutral.
Being expected to be there to pick up the pieces but making sure you're not seen as being too interfering.
Respecting the decisions of your grandchild’s parents and keeping boundaries to your involvement.
Providing comfort, reassurance, and guidance for the people you care about during a time when they are feeling upset and angry.
During a break up of their relationship with their child’s other parent, parents are often overwhelmed with their own feelings and issues. It is easy to overlook the valuable role that grandparents can play in this difficult process.
Grandparents tell us that it is worth taking the time to sit down and talk about what has happened and what is best for the child. Try to be clear about what you would like from each other. It can be helpful to include the support of grandparents in a Parenting Plan.
The support of grandparents can be a crucial factor in how a child copes with their parents’ separation. They can be the point of stability and sense of security for a child during a period of frightening change.
Be aware that when a couple’s relationship breaks down, it does not just affect the immediate family members – it touches other family members in many ways too.
Keeping an open dialogue and maintaining goodwill makes the difficult conversations that changes like this bring much easier. Mediation could be helpful in maintaining that all important positive dialogue.