Jennifer Safian of discusses the effects a divorce has on the parents of the divorcing couple and provides tips on how to handle the situation with open communication and respect.In thinking about parents and in-laws caught in the midst of their children’s divorce, the issue can be looked at from the point of view of the couple getting divorced as well as from the point of view of their parents and in-laws. The impact of divorce on parents and in-laws is often disregarded and forgotten, but addressing some of the problems that may arise could help smooth the path for members of both families.

Part 1: Dealing with a son or a daughter-in-law after their divorce

When a couple gets divorced, the ones that are most affected of course are the couple themselves and their children, so it is understandable that the impact on one’s parents may be put aside. However, we must not forget the feelings and concerns of the grandparents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, and other members of both families who have, over time, shared both good times and bad with the couple which is now breaking up. These family members are often at a loss as to how to handle the relationship with all parties going forward.

I remember once hearing the parents of a-soon-to-be divorced couple saying, “And what are we supposed to do now? Do they realize how this divorce is affecting us?” These words may sound selfish, especially to those going through the divorce, but these are valid questions regarding the future because all family members are affected in one way or another.

  • How do we continue to have a relationship with our grandchildren?
  • How do we relate to our ex-son or ex-daughter-in-law?
  • Do we have to sever our relationship with our son-in-law or daughter-in-law because our child is separating?
  • Do we have to sever our relationship with the other set of parents with whom we have become good friends because our children are no longer together?
  • Will our child feel betrayed if we stay in touch with their former spouse or the other set of parents?
  • We share grandchildren with the other grandparents: how are we going to manage that situation and continue to share with them visiting time, holidays and special occasions?
  • We want to continue spending time with our grandchildren. How do we make that happen?

The couple getting divorced will need the love and support of their own parents and may be very appreciative that they are there for them, and that they can rely on them from time to time.

So parents, here are a few basic and important thoughts for you to keep in mind in order to keep the communication open with your divorcing or divorced children:

  • At an appropriate moment, talk to your son or daughter and ask them openly what they expect from you. In an equally open manner, tell them what you would like from them. You would not want your son or daughter to find out that you are maintaining a relationship with their ex-spouse and possibly feel betrayed.
  • If you want to continue to be involved in your grandchildren’s lives, don’t put them in the middle. Make your plans with the parent who is your child.
  • If you want to see the children while they are with your former son-in-law or daughter-in-law, talk to your own child first and let them know that this is what you would like to do.
  • Respect your own child’s wishes.
  • Respect your grandchildren’s feelings as well. You would not want them to find out that you are seeing them without their mother or father’s approval. Grandchildren’s interest and comfort levels need to come first.
  • And remember as well that your grandchildren should not be the carriers of secrets between any of their parents and grandparents.

I hope that you find these few tips helpful. Do you have any others? Feel free to post them below so that other families may benefit from your experience. And please be sure to read Part 2

Do you know a friend or colleague whom you feel would find this article relevant? Please feel free to forward this article to them.

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Jennifer Safian

jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny
(212) 472-8626
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