Last year was an interesting year for us at Heartland Family Mediators, LLC. We had the privilege of working with couples as they experienced the ups, downs, and heartbreak, which are of the nature of divorce. Each experience was unique, but a few common themes emerged –All parents love their children and want them to feel secure. All parents hope for their children to emerge following the divorce unharmed and to provide fertile ground for them to become happy adults.
From our observations, sometimes hidden among the challenges all couples face are some not-so-obvious steps parents can take that seem to make things easier on children. Among those things, and maybe above all, enlisting others near us to help – our friends, family and grandparents – is key. I will focus here on your children’s grandparents.
Grandparents can and should play significant roles in the lives of grandchildren. They can provide a bridge between two families that supports and keeps intact relationships with cousins, aunts and uncles. These inter-family relationships are important to children. If these relationships are altered, children can become afraid and confused and they grieve the loss. Grandparents can help the two family lines remain intact. Their love and affection both bolsters a grandchild’s esteem and reassures them that no matter what has happened, or what will happen, that they are loved. Grandparents also know intuitively that they have a responsibility to show respect and admiration to their in-law. This respect demonstrates to grandchildren that their parents are worthy of being loved. This is a critical block in the foundation of a child’s happiness because they are themselves part of each parent. It also models an import life lesson.
So continued grandparent involvement can be very important in making your children happy now and in the future. But grandparents themselves also want and need regular contact with their grandchildren. Ideally positioned, the grandparent relationship with both the parents and the grandchildren will not be disturbed by a divorce. That allows grandparents to continue to talk to both parents, orchestrate visits and offer other contact time. It also means both parents may count on two sets of grandparents to pinch hit when help is needed. Allowing for active roles of both sets of the grandparents in the care equation makes for happy grandparents, parents and children. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Grandparents experience hurt in divorce too. They grieve their own child’s loss in the failure of their marriage. They grieve for their grandchildren as they worry about what may lie ahead for them as children of divorce. But grandparents do not know the impact of your decision to use mediation vs litigation to end your marriage. Your choice for peace and putting your children first is a choice that may be foreign to those from the earlier generation. Your choice gives grandparents, your parents, peace themselves. The lyrics of the second and third verse of a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song “Teach Your Children” come to mind to make an important point.
And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
So it is something of an irony that in mainstreaming grandparents into the lives of your children you help your children enjoy both their one and only childhood and you assure they will have better and more fulfilled adult lives. At the same time, in doing that, the grandparents too will have better and more fulfilled lives. You will have helped allow their fears of the uncertainty ahead, for both you and their grandchildren, to evaporate as they come to understand the significance your chosen path of peace will have for both for you and the grandchildren.
It could be said that by making the choice for peace you will have “saved” both your children and their grandparents. And that irony thing? By opting for peace, the really big win is that in saving your children and their grandparents, along the way you save yourselves. By choosing peace you write yourself a permission slip to go forward with less sadness, less regret and less worry for your future and the future of your children.
Can you think of any reason that makes doing things this way not make sense?