Being Flexible with Grandparents, Including Ex-In-Laws

me and papaw

This article has been featured on Big Blended Family.

There’s your parents, your ex’s parents, your new partner’s parents and perhaps your ex’s new partner’s parents. That’s a lot of grandparents! More can be better, but more can also be complicated. If you are managing three or more sets of grandparents within the confines of a time-sharing schedule, it really is quite difficult–unless you choose to make it easy. And yes, if everyone coordinates, visitation for grandparents can be easy.

Most divorced people seem to also divorce the family of the ex-spouse. After my divorce, I was really torn. I loved my ex-husband’s family, and felt they had nothing to do with our ended marriage. They would continue to be grandparents to our children, and I wanted to facilitate and support that with free and open visitation for the grandparents. This brought up questions about how our time-sharing schedule would fit into the grandparent/grandchild relationships.

What if the paternal grandparents wanted to see the kids on my days? What if my mom wanted the kids on my ex-husband’s days? Did the grandparents have to work within the visitation schedule?

Here’s the thing about time-sharing: It’s only as effective as it is beneficial. If both parents want grandparents on all sides to have open and full relationships with the grandchildren, there’s no reason that they can’t cooperate to achieve this.

The idea that a local grandmother would be limited to seeing her grandchildren only on her son’s custodial nights is absurd, especially when you consider that in most time sharing agreements, the mother has the majority of custody. Stranger still, imagine if grandparents travelled across the country to see their grandchildren and were only able to spend a weekend with them because the visitation schedule dictates it.

If it’s “your night” with the kids and your ex’s parents want to take them out for ice cream, as a parent with a generous heart, I highly recommend that you allow it–and make it a regular thing. Even if you don’t like your former in-laws as much as I do, there’s another reason to be open: If you are stingy with and possessive of your children, you are teaching them to be stingy and possessive.

Another outcome you might not expect to being possessive is that over time your children could grow to believe that their other parent’s relatives aren’t very interested in them, because they see them so rarely. If the thought of your child being under the impression that their relatives on “the other side” aren’t as attached or invested doesn’t bother you, you might want to check yourself.

Sadly, the norm is to  cut ties and be bitter. I did not want that for my children or for myself. My conclusion is that there are no rules, and you make them up as you go. If your goal is to set a positive example for your children, to get along with your ex, and his family, then you do what works for all of you and don’t put your own interests first.

Here’s How We Make it Work In Our Family.

  • We allow grandparents to visit and take the kids overnight, regardless of who’s night it may be.
  • When we have co-birthday parties or when we are all present for events for the children, everyone is nice to one another. The bottom line is we treat one another like family.
  • We create clear boundaries when it comes to bad-mouthing: grandparents may not say anything negative about either stepparent. If they do, all four co-parents discuss it and then the person related to the grandparent addresses it immediately.
  • We make it clear to all extended family that the rules of all four co-parents apply for everyone, unless communicated differently by all co-parents.

How do you handle grandparents in your blended family? Do you operate like one large extended family?

Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of ten and fourteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.

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