As a grandparent, you play a vital role in the harmony and happiness of your family and extended family. When tough times strike, you are often the leaders other family members look to for solutions and comfort. For many American families today, divorce is common and families often become blended as new relationships are formed and new marriages made. But a blended family is still a family at its core, and it’s important to know how to keep it strong. Your role might change and shift over time, but you can keep bonds strong with your unique position. Here are some steps you can take as a grandparent getting to know a newly blended family.
Get to Know Your New Step-Grandchildren
It can be difficult at first to see newly-acquired step-grandchildren as part of your family, but it’s crucial to include them in the same ways. Remember that they are young, and most likely struggling with the many changes their family has gone through. Make sure it’s clear they are invited to every dinner and family event and welcome them on any vacations you may take as an extended family. Get them gifts for birthdays and holidays that are in line with what you traditionally give. In short, treat them no differently than your other grandchildren. Go to their sporting events and recitals, and take all of the grandchildren out for a fun afternoon if possible. The more you treat them like a member of the family, the stronger your bonds with them will be, and your relationship can be just as rewarding as the ones you share with other grandchildren.
Don’t neglect grandchildren who may be separated from you now. Though they may not be a part of your extended family any longer, if you keep the doors open, you can build bridges in the future. Discuss your rights with an experienced attorney. You may not be allowed to contact some grandchildren depending on the divorce, but in some cases, letters, phone calls, and visits might be allowed and even welcomed!
Appreciating Your Child’s New Spouse
Whether you’re glad your child has moved on to a new relationship or you’re still mourning their previous one, it’s ultimately your attitude and approach to their new spouse that can set the tone for your future bond. Firstly, limit your conversations about your child's previous partner. No matter how good their split was, don’t discuss divorce lawyers, custody, or settlements in front of their new love. Don’t pick apart their ex’s flaws or shortcomings either. It's also best to avoid asking too many questions about any previous relationships your new son-in-law or daughter-in-law might have had. A good rule of thumb is that the past should stay in the past, so do your part by not tainting your current conversations with negativity. Embrace your child’s new spouse by taking them out to dinner as a couple and celebrating their new start in life. Find some common ground or shared interests and you may even have a great opportunity for a one-on-one activity with them, like fishing or scrapbooking.
Change can be frustrating and scary but keep an open mind. Instead of being wary around your new family members, welcome them with open arms and show them what the word family means to you. They’re likely just as nervous as you are about creating a blended family, but your unique position as elders will allow you to steer the relationship. Set the tone and a strong example for others to follow, and your blended family can become even stronger than blood.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information on grandparent’s rights in South Carolina check out The Peck Firm or contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.