Question of the week: How do I help grandparents deal with their child’s divorce?


“In our church we are having more and more grandparents coming to us wanting to visit about their adult child’s divorce. They seem to be mainly concerned about how to help their grandchildren. I’m pretty much clueless about what to say or how to help these senior adults.”

There are a lot of issues a grandparent faces with the divorce of an adult child. Understanding some of these issues will make it easier for church leaders to help the grandparents in their church.

Major issues

  • They are concerned about the welfare of their child.
  • Grandparents are worried about the grandchildren and the long-term effect the divorce will have on the grandchildren.
  • They may fear losing contact with these grandchildren they love so very much.
  • If they had a close relationship with the son-in-law or daughter in-law, they may be worried about split loyalties.
  • They may experience overwhelming feelings such as sadness, anxiety, bereavement, pain, resentment, protectiveness of an adult child, frustration and anxiety, and weariness from worry.

Grieving process

Some grandparents will face a grieving process as they grieve the loss of the marriage relationship of their child. As they grieve the loss of their child’s marriage, some will take on guilt. They may wonder what they did wrong in raising their child. They may wish they had been more involved or not so involved in their child’s marriage. Grandparents will question the entire process and the role they may have played.

Grandparents may also grieve the loss of someone they truly cared for and loved. If it is a high conflict divorce, grandparents my find themselves thrown in the middle of the divorce war. Or they may find the in-law wants nothing to do with them, even though they are innocent bystanders.

They may also grieve the accessibility to their grandchildren. Perhaps they were used to babysitting the grandchildren on a regular basis or taking them on vacations. Now they fear they will no longer have an opportunity to have a viable influence on the grandchildren if they don’t get to spend time with them.

Ten tips for the grandparent helping the grandchild

  1. Encourage them to love their grandchild unconditionally.
  2. Tell them not to ask the child prying questions about the other parent’s lifestyle.
  3. Encourage them to maintain a relationship with the ex in-law. Bitterness toward the ex in-law may push the grandchildren away.
  4. Explain that maintaining a loving relationship with the ex in-law will also serve as a testimony to the love of Christ and a powerful witness to the grandchildren.
  5. When children are returned from a visit to the other parent, welcome them with open arms and not questions so the grandparents can be the soft place to fall for these kids.
  6. Tell the grandparents not to say unpleasant things about the other parent.
  7. Encourage the grandparents to stay upbeat and joyful around the children.
  8. Stay neutral and do not take sides in the divorce.
  9. Learn about the technologies the grandkids use so the grandparents can communicate with the grandchildren all year long via the child’s method. (One church I was in had technology classes for grandparents so they could learn how to use social media to stay in touch with far away grandchildren.)
  10. Encourage the grandparents to pray constantly for the grandchildren and their welfare.

Grandparents hurt for the grandchildren. They want what is best and, unlike when they raised their own children, they don’t have much of a say or control over what happens to the grandchildren. Be gentle with hurting grandparents and offer to pray with them for their grandchildren.





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