Posted by: Admin | April 27, 2011

Some Home Truths

Kids – you wave them off to university or their first job and know it’s time to put away your cape and mask: your work is done. You watch with pride, from a respectful distance, as they put down roots and make lives for themselves. You keep your counsel when they introduce you to their partners and attend their weddings, genuinely hoping they’ve found someone who will make them happy. Then, if they are unlucky, you watch bleakly as they struggle to keep their marriages together.

So what do you do when a child’s marriage breaks down? Here’s my handy checklist – feel free to stick it on the fridge door with a magnet:

  • No matter how distressed you feel, remember this: YOUR FEELINGS ARE IRRELEVANT. Your child has enough to contend with without having to comfort you
  • If you have had an amicable relationship with your child’s ex-partner, try to maintain that for the sake of the children. If this is impossible it might be best to steer clear altogether
  • If proceedings become unpleasant, resist the urge to chase the other party down the street to put in your four pennyworth. DON’T INTERFERE
  • No matter how upset you might be, remember: IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU. Your child does not need you “winding them up” further, thus jeopardising their chances of coming to an agreement with their spouse about how THEY will raise THEIR children now they are apart
  • Resist the urge to bad-mouth the other parent to your grandchildren. It will only make them look at you with new eyes
  • Remember, your grandchildren are morally and legally entitled to enjoy a full and loving relationship with both parents and both families. Whatever has happened between your child and his or her spouse, it can only be in the children’s interests to grow up feeling part of both families
  • To that end, be clear that you will never abandon your grandchildren and, for their sake, employ whatever lawful means necessary to allow your relationship to flourish
  • Maintain a sense of perspective and help your child to do so. You’ve lived long enough to know that the situation will move on
  • Encourage your child to build a new life outside of the dead relationship
  • Remember, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

No parent wants to see their child experience the pain of separation, particularly if they are separated from their children – your grandchildren. You will run a gamut of emotions yourself which you will undoubtedly need to process. Resist the urge to turn to your child for support. Turn to your friends, or a counsellor if you don’t have anyone in whom you can confide. Your role is to be strong for your child and help them to remain rational in the face of intolerable pressure. You owe it to them, you owe it to your grandchildren, and you owe it to yourself to put your own feelings aside and allow your child to work out with their ex-partner how they are going to move forward for the sake of their children.

Eventually, those children will grow up and form their own opinions about your actions now. Hopefully, they will conclude that you always put their interests first, and supported their parent unselfishly at this difficult time. Because that’s what we all want for our children and grandchildren, isn’t it? The ability to form their own opinions, even if they differ from ours? And we have to learn to separate ourselves and our emotions from them and theirs. Every good parent knows instinctively when to stand aside, and if your child is going through a messy separation, then this is undoubtedly one of those times.

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