Dear Grandparenting: Another one bites the dust. My daughter, Darlene, and her hubby are heading for Splitsville. They tried and tried but were two misfits. We all agree they will be better off living apart. That is just a given. Then the situation begins to get sticky, like when money and/or my grandchildren are on the table.
There’s no way this won’t change my grandchildren. Who really knows how? As of right now, Darlene will have primary custody of Matt and Carolyn. He is 7 and she is 5. Her soon-to-separated hubby gets some visitation and gets them every other weekend. I try and find something positive like I always do, but mostly I’m feeling helpless and not really in the loop. My worst nightmare is to lose touch with my grandchildren. I guess that could happen down the road. What advice or encouragement do you have handy? Martin Bevins, Battle Creek, Michigan
Dear Martin: There’s not much that starts the worry wheels of a grandparent turning like news of an impending separation or divorce. When it involves young grandchildren who don’t fully know their own minds, grandparents are at greater risk for becoming collateral damage. They can lose touch, be painted as villains or find themselves squeezed out of the picture by stepgrandparents.
Grandparents who enjoy exceptionally good relations with their grandchildren aren’t out of danger either. They may misperceive a grandchild’s anxious attitude towards family members as proof they’ve fallen out of favor, which makes them uncertain about how to proceed.
That said, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume your relationship will take a turn for the worse. The biggest mistake a grandparent can commit is to recede or detach — it’s their golden opportunity to become the unbiased, nonjudgmental confidant that grandchildren need in a loving authority figure. Being a good listener means not disparaging your daughter’s hubby.
Amidst the chaos surrounding the family collapse, you can be a safe place where grandchildren can come to share their feelings, a special someone who has the time to listen without trying to “fix” everything. By sharing the challenges that you and other family members have faced and overcome in life, grandchildren may begin to envision a way out of the darkness. The time you spend worrying would be much better spent building bridges with your grandchildren.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Nanny from Lady Lake, Florida, got a little flustered when she telephoned her daughter’s house and a friend who had dropped by happened to answer the phone.
“Who’s this?” asked Nanny. In the meantime, Nanny’s grandson Lyle, 4, had picked up the phone in a different room.
“Who’s this?” asked Nanny again.
“It’s me, Grandma!” said Lyle. “I know it’s you, too. This game is fun.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.