GRANDPARENTING BY TOM AND DEE AND COUSIN KEY
Dear Grandparenting: What do you say when your grandchildren come crying because their separated parents are dating? That’s what I must deal with as the grandparent who always cleans up all the messes. Their parents’ marriage was falling apart so I let my grandchildren move in with me because it seemed like the best thing to do. Getting my grandchildren out of the battle zone was a no-brainer.
But I cannot wrap my brain around how to handle this dating after separation business and how it hurts my grandchildren. It rips them apart knowing their parents are going with these other people. I know because my grandchildren confide in me. They trust me and feel safe talking about it. At least they have me to talk with instead of keeping their feelings bottled up inside. Here is one example. My eight-year-old grandson complains that his father spends more time worrying about who he is dating than he does about him. He says he is not the same person. I am at a loss to know what’s best. Any and all advice is needed and welcome. Delta, Leesburg, Fla.
Dear Delta: Our hearts go out to your grandchildren. The number one fear of children is parental separation/divorce. The runner-up is their parents pairing off with others. It’s a double whammy, their worst nightmare squared.
In your case, the parents are doing your grandchildren no favors by sharing their romantic life. It’s careless and unnecessary and the last thing your grandchildren need to know until they adjust to the separation. Just ask recognized expert M. Gary Neuman — his divorce therapy program for children is mandated for use in family courts in different states. (Neuman authored “Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastle Way,” a most helpful resource.) Children commonly experience loyalty conflicts when caught between biological parents and new partners. One new partner is bad enough. Multiples are deadly.
For all of your grandparenting skills and ability to clean up “all the messes,” you’re looking at a lifetime of remedial emotional housekeeping unless the parents embrace their responsibility to fulfill your grandchildren’s wants and needs. There’s only so much you can do — the parents are fully capable of creating problems much faster than you can deal with them. Where’s their empathy? Where’s their discretion about dating? We strongly urge you to connect the parents with a family counselor. These situations create numerous traps, and they seem pretty good at falling into each and every one.
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GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Captain Raz from Reading, Pa. weighed in with his rules of engagement:
“An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that and you can start to age quickly.”
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Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.