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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Grandparents and Divorced Children...What Happens Next?

Divorcing the Grandparents?

Did you realize we just observed the day marked as National Grandparents Day last Sunday? 

There are many unintended consequences of our choices every day and lately there have been a lot of discussion about those unintended consequences and I think it is a good thing.  The simple notion that choices we make may create the results we seek, but along with those results may also create complications we never expected.  I think divorce ALWAYS does that!  Otherwise, why would the person filing so often end up so angry?  They may THINK they will get their divorce, but in fact, they get the court’s divorce, which may or may not match what they expected to happen.  Today, I want to discuss some of these unintended consequences.

A number of times, down through the years, I have had couples in my church talk with me about their concerns when one of their children was getting divorced.  I remember one gentleman in particular who made the statement that he thinks is might be harder to watch his grown child going through a divorce than it would be to get divorced himself.  As a father of adult children, I realize he may be right, a parent’s care about our children’s welfare does not end simply because they grow up and move out.  It’s just that our ability to help them solve their problems has become limited.  He was not the only parent I knew whose heart was breaking as their child was divorcing.

Sometimes, though, the family structure was such that not only did the parents watch their child get divorced, they were also suffered as grandparents, watching their grandchildren try to make sense of mommy and daddy’s problems.  Simultaneously, the grandparents’ opportunities to be with their grandchildren and to influence their grandchildren can also be curtailed.  Sometimes it is because the custodial parent loads up the kids and moves away.  Sometimes it is that the custodial parent remarries, and doesn’t want to have the hassle of always trying to make sure their ex-in-laws are included in everything.  Sometimes it is because the custodial parent never liked the in-laws anyway, and are now have nothing forcing them to make time for them, so they don’t bother.  Even worse, some parents poison the minds of their children against the in-laws they don’t like, sometimes overtly, other times through insidious manipulation and twisting of words.  (Granted, though, there are some people who are NOT good grandparents and have harmful influence, generally speaking, this is merely injecting one’s own issues into the kids relationships.)  Those grandparents often end up having to share the limited time the non-custodial parent has with the kids.  No longer are they able to simply drop by the house to visit their grandchildren, because the custodial parent wants nothing to do with them.  And the grandparents often have very little they can do to remedy the situation, because even the court isn’t always clear about what they can expect.

Fortunately, this isn't ALWAYS the case…some parents are smart enough to realize how important grandparents are in the lives of children, whether the parent likes them or not!  Those wise parents never run down the ex’s family, but encourages their children to cherish the family relationships that are so important in life.  

But sadly, all too often this schism is a side effect of parents getting divorced.  So perhaps you are a person who tries to be compassionate with individuals struggling in the midst of their divorces.  Perhaps you might want to expand that circle to include individuals you know who are having to watch their children go through divorce.  That hurt often goes entirely unnoticed.  You might be surprised at the response you discover.

And finally, if you are a grandparent who has suffered through the heartbreak of watching your child and grandchildren experience divorce, and had your own heart broken by the loss of opportunities with those grandchildren, I want to offer you a few words of encouragement as well.  There is not a wrong you have suffered that God has not noticed.  There is not a wound in your hear that he cannot heal.  There is not an injustice that will not be called to account when all things are made right and his reign is established forever. 

And furthermore, I encourage you to never underestimate the power of a parent and grandparent’s prayers for those you love.  Many things you may no longer be able to do because of the shattering of a divorce, but God can do all things, and with your intercession, he will protect and preserve those precious little loved ones. 

 Don’t give up.  God bless you!

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