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How to Explain Grandparents’ Divorce to a Child

Relationships are fragile, and they tend to end way more often than to last for a lifetime. One of the most particularly disconcerting instances of divorces is the break-ups of couples who have been together for long decades, and who up until that point were shining examples of how to stick together through thick and thin. These kinds of divorces put everything in a different perspective, shattering our convictions about love and what it takes to remain married until a ripe, old age.

From the legal side of the whole ordeal, elderly couples splitting up belong to some of the easiest cases to handle. In the autumn years of their lives, people tend not to obsess and fight over material possessions, their children are most likely grown-up and have their own problems, so there is no need to sort out child support after a divorce or who gets custody, among all sorts of other nasty things that come along with ending a marriage when raising kids together.

Even though there are no legal and procedural difficulties that come with getting divorced in the latter years of one's life, the interpersonal relationships with the people from both sides of the family, especially children, will be the most difficult to maintain properly.

If you find yourself in a situation where your parents (or your spouse's parents) are getting divorced, and you've got to explain this situation to your kids somehow, keep reading to get an idea of how to best tackle this subject.

Don't Play It Down

A lot of people tend to trivialize divorce and not really explain the gist of it to children, in hopes of shielding them from the sad reality that is about to dawn upon them. It is a seriously flawed tactic, guaranteed to backfire in the future. It is much less dangerous when it is the child's grandparents, not parents, who are splitting up since it doesn't flip their entire world upside down. Still, it is not the best idea to sugarcoat divorce and portray a false image of reality to your kids.

Studies have shown that while it is still a difficult experience, most children adjust to the post-divorce reality just fine -- and that is when their parents break up. As long as you handle it the right way, you can expect your kid to understand their grandparents' decision as well, even if they may need a little time to come to terms with it.

Reassure Them

As soon as they find out about the divorce, children will almost immediately have at least a dozen different questions pertaining towards it -- who will live closer? Why did it happen? Will I ever see grandpa again?

These are just some of the uncomfortable questions your kid might throw at you when you sit them down to talk about their grandparents' divorce. The most important thing to remember is reassuring children that none of this is their fault. Most kids are extremely self-centered and will immediately look to themselves for the most likely explanation for the break-up. Secondly, you should reaffirm the love that their grandparents hold for them and that no matter how they feel about each other, none of it can change their love for their grandchildren.

Although self-centered and not yet fully operational, kids are smarter and more insightful than we give them credit for -- they might not buy your reassurances unless they come directly from grandma and grandpa. This is why it might be a good idea to convince both of them to come over and take part in the conversation, regardless of how much they can't stand being in a room together.

Keep the Future Bright

Close members of the family are some of the most influential role models in the early years of any human being's life. Grandparents that have stayed together for decades on end to provide children with an example of how to build and grow a large family, with a strong, lasting foundation. As their marriage comes to an end, so might your child's belief in true, everlasting love and the institution of marriage.

It is your responsibility as a parent to guide your kids through this time in a way that won't have them come out the other end as bitter adults, struggling to find love that lasts. Whereas parents divorcing has proven to have a more immediate impact on their children's development, the break-up of grandparents can have a more long-term effect on their interpersonal relationships. This is because children tend to view the grandparents as pillars of the entire family, and when the upholding columns break -- the whole building falls apart.

Bottom Line

You might consider yourself lucky that it is your parents' divorce that you have to explain to your child, and not your own. It is still a difficult path to tread, though, and you should handle it with utmost care. If your parents are still together and you think this won't concern you, think again -- divorce rates involving people older than 50 years of age have doubled since the 90s, and not that many people have enough insight into their parents' relationship to know what is truly going on between them.

3 min read
Lifestyle

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.

-Sadsies

Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.



I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!



- The Armchair Psychologist

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