The difference when your children divorce.

There is a huge difference between helping out with grandchildren, and taking sole care of them Yet, when your children divorce, your grandchildren need you more than ever.


When Your Children Divorce: Part Two

Jill Curtis


There is a huge difference between helping out with grandchildren, and taking sole care of them. Yet, when your children divorce, your grandchildren need you more than ever, generation gaps and all.


Part Two: 

"We’re getting a divorce’ are words all parents dread to hear from their married son or daughter.

There is a huge difference between helping out with  grandchildren, and taking sole care of them. From the number of grandparents who contacted me when I was researching for my books on the family I became aware of the army of grandparents who have had to step in to care full- time for their grandchildren. Divorce is not the only reason for this.

Emily: ‘My daughter was divorced and a year later she died of cancer. By then we had lost all contact with my ex son-in-law, so what were we to do? We have cared for Jackie since he was two years old.’

What indeed? I heard from grandparent after grandparent who for different reasons had taken on the task of parenting their grandchildren. For this to come about there must have been a tragedy or crisis in the family. It was a task always done with love, but often with a heavy heart too as strength and finances often ran out.

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One all too familiar scenario was where visitation rights for  grandparents were cut out from grandchildren’s lives because a parent – consciously or
unconsciously – had found a way of ‘punishing’ their ex-partner.

Links to divorce articles and information if you want to pass along divorce information to your child:
Single Men  
Single Women  


A very unhappy situation which grandparents can find themselves in is if the rift between the couple includes the extended family. In my research I heard of the way divorce had wrecked the lives of many senior family members. I heard from one grandmother:

Glenda: ‘One Christmas a happy family time, and by the next my son was divorced and my ex daughter-in-law had gone to Australia with my two loved grandsons. I don’t even have their address.’

One all too familiar scenario was where grandparents were cut out from grandchildren’s lives because a parent – consciously or unconsciously – had found a way of ‘punishing’ their ex-partner. The fact that the children suffer too was sometimes overlooked in the heat and pain of the situation. For a child to cope with a broken family is one thing, and hard enough, but to lose one set of grandparents as well is to deny a child part of their history.

One little acknowledged impact on the grandparents from their children’s divorce may be rage towards an ex partner who has hurt their child. Even if both partners have contributed to the breakup, blood is still thicker than water, and the old protective
instinct will kick in. At the same time there is often unacknowledged grief at the loss of a son or daughter-in-law because of a divorce.

Margaret: ‘ My son-in-law hurt my daughter and the children, and his behavior made my husband ill with worry, but I did love him and couldn’t just stop. He was like a son to me. I couldn’t talk about that, of course.’

So to the grandparents who have been affected by a family crisis, whether a step-grandparent, someone parenting for the second time, or a person grieving for a ‘lost’ grandchild, they are all victims of circumstances. Whilst some braced themselves to take on parental duties, others mourned the loss of the status as grandparents.

Ellie: ‘When things were very bleak indeed, I remind myself that grandchildren are our hope for the future. So I found it in myself to give hope for the future to my grandchildren.’

All my research has pointed to the importance of grandparents for children, but especially for children of divorced or separated parents. If the awful words ‘we’re getting a divorce’ are heard from one of your children, you can be sure your help is going to be needed in many ways and that your days of being just a ‘ fun’ grandparent are probably over. The trick is to keep a balance, support for your children and their children, but also to remember that a grandparent has a special relationship with their children’s children – so if circumstances allow it, find time to enjoy just being a grandparent.


Jill Curtis – a psychotherapist and grandmother – author of:

Making and Breaking Families – the Way Ahead for Parents and their Children

Where’s Daddy? – Separation and Your Child.


Outstanding Links
Singles Profiles
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GrandParents Web Directory. Table of Contents. Generation Gaps Live Again.
Letters from Surfer Grandparents. Open-Minded in Changing World. April Fool’s Letter to Grandkids.
Grandparents as Mentors. Depression and Grandkids. Joy of Reading.
Time: There is Never Enough. Subscribe to Free Grandparenting eNewsletter, Bonding with Grandkids.
Grandparents’ Birthday Book: A Great (Free) Gift! Grandparenting and Aging Table of Contents. Value and Cultural Differences.
Grandparents Seeking Advice from Others. Graceful Aging Starts Early. Getting Grandchildren to Obey Rules  at Your House.
What Did You Name Your Grandparents? Rules for Graceful Aging. Sharing Ideas: Staying in Touch.
More Names of Grandparents. Reversing Heart Disease. When You Were Little…
Grandchildren. Avoiding Chronic Diseases. Grandparenting.
Grandparents’ visitation rights: Table of Contents. Avoiding Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Osteoporosis, Diabetes. Entertaining Visiting Grandchildren:  Table of Contents for All Ages.
Grandchild’s Right to Visitation. Avoiding Cancer. Grandkids Funtime: Ages 3-5.
Alternatives to court. Stress and Aging. Grandkids Funtime: Ages 5-8.
Going to court for visitation Depression and Aging. Grandkids Funtime: Ages 8-12.
If all else fails… Rocking Chair and Aging. Grandkids Funtime: Ages 12-15.
Divorce: You, your children, their children: 
Table of contents.
Grandparents Using Time-Out for Discipline:
Table of Contents.
Grandkids Funtime: Ages 15 and up.
Grandchildren of Divorce Have Moral Rights. Timeout Defined. Grandkids & Frankenfoods
Table of Contents
Stepping In After Divorce. Timeout Information. What Is Genetic Engineering?
When Your Children Divorce. Timeout Locations. What Are Potential Benefits/Risks?
Camping with Grandkids: Table of Contents. Timeout and Ages of Children. Promises and Realities of GMOs.
Make Your Home a Summer Camp. Timeout for the Active Child. Environmental Concerns.
Camping with Grandkids. To Grandfather’s House We Go: Table of Contents. Grandparents Raising Grandkids: Table of Contents.
Checklist for Camping. Nana’s & Poppy’s Week. Role of Grandparent Raising Grandchild.
News. Activities for Kids at Grandparents’ Home. At Grandma’s House We Stay.

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