Who gets custody of Grandpa?




Even though divorce isn’t as rampant as it was back in the seventies and eighties, children now face a new divorce dilemma, which can affect them in deep and profound ways. What dilemma am I talking about? I’m talking about when grandparents divorce.

Steve Grissom says in the Gray Divorce Crisis that the largest group of people divorcing is the Baby Boomers, men and women in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. He says that they are divorcing at a faster rate than any other age group. Grissom gives many reasons why Boomers are divorcing, but today, I want to talk about the grandkids involved in this divorce phenomenon.

Grandparents’ role

Grandparents play special roles in children’s lives. Many times, when you ask adults who were the most influential people in their lives other than their parents, grandparents are the most often given answer. Grandparents matter in kids’ lives.

Often, when there has been a family crisis, such as a death or the divorce of parents, the grandparents are the safe place for the grandchild. Grandparents also fill the role of a source of comfort for a troubled child, especially when there are parent–child conflicts. And so many grandchildren look to their grandparents to be the family historians and help them see and know about past generations through the grandparents’ stories and picture albums.

If grandparents divorce, what does it do to the grandchildren?

  •      What happens to the relationship little Kassie had with Grandma?

Kassi and Grandma always made cookies together. Now, Grandma might be too irritated to bake cookies with Kassi. Or maybe Grandma has a new “friend,” and she is acting silly and weird. Kassi doesn’t like being around this new man, and she really doesn’t like it when he holds Grandma’s hand. After all, that is a Grandpa kind of thing.

  •      Where do the grandchildren go when they want to feel the comfort of grandparents’ home?

As a young teenager, Gage always knew that he could go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The door was always open. He liked spending time in that old house that felt so comfortable. When he was with them there, he knew that he was greatly loved. He could feel that love. And, of course, there were always hugs from Grandma and fist-bumps from Grandpa.

Gage’s older sister, Allison, liked to sit in Grandma’s garden with Grandma. They would sit on her porch swing and talk as they swung back and forth. It was such a comfortable, warm feeling.

Now Grandma and Grandpa’s house is for sale. Things like Grandpa’s special old desk have started to disappear. Grandma’s garden has turned into weeds and dead plants. The porch swing sits all alone, and no one swings in it. Neither Gage nor Allison feels that warm, comfortable feeling any longer. There are few hugs and fist-bumps from Grandpa and Grandpa.

  •      Who will tell the grandchildren stories about their mom or dad’s childhood?

Grandpa was always the one to share with Kevin what his daddy was like as a little boy. Kevin prided himself that he was just like his daddy and grandpa. They all liked to go fishing and spend spring Saturdays at the lake.

Now Grandpa is too sad to go fishing. All he talks about is how much he loves Grandma. Kevin wonders if he might end up lonely like Grandpa. If this man Kevin idolizes has ended up lonely and desperate, will that happen to him too?

  •      Who will pass down family traditions and rituals?

Grandma loved to bring out the family albums at family reunions. Stories about family traditions were told over and over. Jake remembers how bored he used to be by all that family stuff, but now that Grandma and Grandpa are getting divorced, he realizes that he misses those family reunions. And those albums! Seeing those albums all torn apart brings a deep sadness to him. He questions how two “old” people who have been married forever can suddenly try to separate their lives and all of their stuff.

  •      And by the way, what happens to those special family holiday meals?

Thanksgiving was always such a special time for Jenn and Jason. Every Thanksgiving, their family would pack up and go their grandparents’ house for the day. One of the aunts always fixed a special cranberry salad. Another aunt prepared the pumpkin pies, and Grandma baked the turkey with all the “fixins,” as she called them.

The cousins came from near and far, and the whole day was filled with laughter and fun. At dinner, Grandpa always sat at the head of the adult table, and the children would sit at the kids’ table. Grandma and Grandpa are getting a divorce, though, so there will be no Thanksgiving dinner filled with laughter. There will be no turkey with all the fixins. There will be no Grandpa at the head of the table.

The complexities of divorce

The grandparents will develop their own lives separate from each other. They will each have their own places without the other grandparent there. For grandchildren, this can be devastating.

Both grandparents will move on with their lives as one or both begin to see other people and develop new relationships.

More than likely, one member of the long-married couple—or both—will leave the church.

Savings and retirements will be ripped apart. One grandparent might live in poverty. Inheritances that once would have been awarded to the grandchildren may cease to exist.

Life changes for everyone, including the grandchildren.

How church leadership can help

  •      If at all possible, talk with the grandparents about reconciliation. This might mean special couples’ counseling by someone who understands the Boomer generation mentality.
  •      Discuss with the grandparents how to tell the grandchildren that there is an impending divorce. Suggest that both grandparents be there together to tell the grandchildren. This is the grandparents’ responsibility, not the parents’. The parents can be in the room, but the grandparents should do the talking and answer questions.

Tell the grandparents to reassure the grandchildren that both grandparents will still be in their lives. Let the grandchildren know that, while they will see the grandparents, they won’t visit the grandparents together any longer. Every grandchild will be welcomed at each grandparent’s home. Encourage the couple to talk about how things will be different for the grandkids, but both grandparents will still love all of their grandchildren.

  •      Visit with the grandchildren to find out if they have any questions or need time to visit with the pastor or another church leader. Some children might wonder if their grandparents will still go to heaven if they are divorced or if God still loves their grandparents. Keep in mind that these kids have wounded hearts, and confusion reigns in their minds about how their grandparents could get divorced after being married for many years.
  •      Provide special events and outings for grandmas and grandkids and for grandpas and grandkids.

Who gets custody of Grandpa?

Let’s return to the original question we started with: Who gets custody of Grandpa? Sadly, no one gets custody of either Grandpa or Grandma. Hopefully, as life moves forward for the divorcing grandparents, they will still take the time to be in their grandchildren’s lives.


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