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GRANDPARENTS and STEPGRANDPARENTS - HOW THEY CAN HELP

By Marion Summers
Stepfamily Association of Idaho Newsletter

Remember: The goal is to maintain relationships with your grandchildren. All efforts lead toward this goal. When an adult child divorces, avoid taking sides. Remaining neutral will help build and maintain relationships with your former son/daughter-in-law and your grandchildren.

If your grandchildren are in the custody of your adult child's ex-spouse, make a special effort to keep up your relationship with your biological grandchildren. They need your love and emotional support in their new family situation.

If there are severed relationships in your family, attempt to talk to the adults involved about the one important issue - having contact with your grandchildren. It may be helpful to have a minister, rabbi, family doctor, or other impartial person help you all talk together. Try not to be critical of your adult child's new spouse. Remember that relationships in stepfamilies are complicated and take time to build. Your interference can only increase initial difficulties.

If your biological grandchildren and stepgrandchildren are having difficulties, try to remain neutral. Taking sides will add to any tension or competition.

If you become an "instant" grandparent to same new stepgrandchildren, initiate relationships very carefully. Begin by spending short periods of time together and allow the relationships to build gradually.

Become sensitive to the importance of equality among the children in a stepfamily. As much as possible try to be equal in areas such as gift giving, trips, and attending special events.

Don't be offended if your stepgrandchildren don't call you "grandma" and "grandpa." They may have previously assigned those titles and feel more comfortable calling you something different. Often children are creative in inventing titles such as "Grammy," "Nana," "Grandpap," or "Gramps."

Avoid giving unsolicited advice. As with any grandparenting relationship, your adult children and their spouses will not appreciate hearing your views on how they should be raising the children and running their families. Since stepfamily roles are not well-defined in our society, they may be especially sensitive to any criticism or well-meaning advice.

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