divorce and family mediation in nyc

jennifer safian, divorce mediator

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are we forgetting about the in-laws? part 1

Jennifer Safian of www.safian-mediation.com 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.

If you have any questions or concerns about Mediation,
or would like to schedule a no fee mediation consultation ,
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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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  1. Jann Glasser January 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Excellent points for extended families to keep in mind! Divorce is like an earthquake — the divorcing couple may be at the epicenter, but the children, siblings and extended family experience the aftershocks as well. By including the extended family in post-divorce parenting decisions, it helps to create stability and consistency of relationships for the children who have been impacted.

  2. Terry Gaspard January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    You bring up some important points about the role of grandparents post-divorce Jennifer!

  3. Joanne S. Nadell, Esq. January 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Jennifer you are so right. The ripples of conflict within a family are like dropping a stone in a lake. Your in-laws, once your ally and loving grandparents to your children, can join in the conflict escalating matters, but also, sadly be hurt and frightened and threatened by the change in your nuclear family. Being sensitive to those matters, as a collaborative professional, is very important and bringing in a mental health professional to guide everyone in extreme cases, is also a valuable too.

  4. Knox M. Henry January 23, 2013 at 8:39 am - Reply

    An excellent article that addresses a very important consideration, especially when we realize that as grandparents age, they have less resilience to deal with change in their lives. A divorcing child can have a devasting effect upon their parents, and as I have often witnessed, cause stress in their relationship between each other.

  5. Barbara J. Nadon October 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Jennifer this is an excellent article. My one concern is the conflict I (we) have with respecting the wishes of our child in this situation. Our daughter would like her ex-husband to drop off the face of the earth and have our large family end contact with him. The problem is that we are all extremely close to him and as he has not committed any major infractions, we have no problem with him and love him dearly. He has never spoken ill of our daughter or asked us to choose sides. He is a wonderful, involved father to our grandchildren. I do not understand why we can not get along as their relationship changes. I do not want to loose my son-in-law, he has been like a son for years.

    • Jennifer Safian
      Jennifer Safian October 24, 2016 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Thank you Barbara for your email. Sometimes, time will help remedy some of these situations as everyone gets used to the new living arrangements. No one knows really what happened between your daughter and her husband, and why she has these feelings towards him. And the last thing you want is for your daughter to feel betrayed by her own parents.
      At some point when things settle a little more, you might want to tell your daughter that your love for her does not change, that she is your daughter and will always have first place in your heart. You do not want her to feel that you are favoring him over her. That you believe that it is important for the children to know that their father is still accepted in the family even if their parents were not able to stay together.
      Your role is one of maintaining a delicate balance and sometimes it is difficult.
      I wish you all the best of luck and lots of fun times with your grandchildren. As a grandparent we have an important role to play in all these dynamics.

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