How single parents can deal with grandparents

Dealing with grandparents should enhance both your lives and the lives of your children. When a marriage or union ends both the parents and grandparents have to deal with a myriad of conflicting emotions; lines may be drawn in the sand and dealing with grandparents may become difficult. How a marriage/union ended will have a large impact on the role grandparents will play when it ends.

Tips on how to handle grandparents in the new single phase of your life:

Accept the grandparent’s emotions

Undoubtedly the more difficult set of grandparents to deal with will be those of your spouse. Even if your marriage ended badly due to abuse, these grandparents may insist their son/daughter walks on water. Accept that these grandparents are entitled to their own opinions and emotions no matter how far removed from reality they may be. State your truth calmly and clearly and if possible work out a plan where you can agree to disagree, and where both you and your children can remain part of their lives. Never ask the parents of an ex to choose sides, no matter how tempting it may be.

Divorce or the death of one spouse will bring out strong emotions and grandparents are no exception, and they may not adhere to any personal boundary or visitation plan you have tried to set up with them. Wherever possible get your ex spouse to work with you with both sets of grandparents so that no one needs to feel left out. If this is not possible, grandparent involvement and visitation may have to be included in a parenting plan set up by the courts as part of the divorce process.

Grandparents have legal rights

Until the last decade or so, grandparents had few if any legal rights; now not only are grandparents being proactive in asserting their rights, they are often the temporary or permanent custodian of any grandchildren. When a marriage or union ends grandparents may approach the court system to give them temporary or permanent guardianship of any minor children and no matter what motivates this move the court has a duty to hear them.

In the event that your parents or your ex’s parents try to get custody of your children there is usually little need for fear. Court does still favour the parents, unless the grandparents can demonstrate that significant neglect or abuse has taken place. Sadly these legal moves are often born out of fear that these children will be moved out of State/Province/Country once a divorce or separation becomes permanent. No matter how angry you are, do try and see the situation from aging grandparent’s eyes. Many of these situations can be worked out free of charge through community advocacy agencies.

When you don’t know the grandparents

In 2013, almost half of the children in the United States were born out of wedlock, according to CBS News. While many parents stay together to raise their children, many do not. When a union of this nature disintegrates one party (typically the dad) may never petition the court for custody/visitation leaving behind a single mom and child, who may never have known or even met her ex’s parents.

If you have never met, or had extremely limited involvement with any ex’s parents there is little fear that these grandparents’ will get custody of your children. If you however; wish to begin or develop a relationship with these people it can be tricky; and may involve multiple dilemmas’ such as:

They may not believe you when you tell them the child belongs to their son/daughter. They may have been led to believe by your ex that you are emotionally unstable, or are simply after their money, home or belongings. They may not wish to be involved, no matter how much you try or insist.

If you find any of the following scenarios applying to your situation, only you will be able to determine if you want to persist in getting to know them and having them be involved in your children’s lives. If you do choose to be persistent don’t bombard them with letters/emails/telephone calls, and wherever possible seek the services of a qualified counsellor who may be able to bring you all closer together.

We rely on grandparents for our heritage, and often if we are lucky enough they are actively involved in the development of our children’s lives. Family relationships are never easy, but with work and patience both sets of grandparents can become part of your new single life, and that of your children.