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The rise in the rate of divorce and remarriage has serious implications for grandparents. In 1961, when many of today’s grannies were starting their families, there were 27,200 divorces in the UK. By 2003 the number had multiplied by six, reaching 166,700. In 2000, more than half of marriages (53%) ended in divorce. But that does not show the whole picture, because 40% of babies are born to parents who are not married, and the rate of separation among unmarried couples is higher than the rate of divorce among married couples.
Looked at together, these statistics indicate that, whereas families where the parents stayed together ‘until death did them part’ used to be the norm, the opposite is now the case.
It is desperately sad for grandparents when their son or daughter’s marriage ends in divorce. Every case is different and there are very complicated emotions involved. For children living in an unhappy household, their relationship with their grandparents may be the most stable element in a shifting world, and it may fall to grandparents to see the children safely though the crisis. Here's our advice for grandparents dealing with divorce.
Children often feel it is somehow their fault when one of their parents leaves home for good, and they will be in dire need of the extra love and reassurance grandparents can give. They may need you to tell them that their parents both still love them whatever happens.
Take your grandchildren out whenever you get the chance, and do whatever you can to make sure they simply have fun in the way they do when life is normal.
Be there to talk and listen. Never say the other parent is bad or horrid - there is always a reason for this or that. Never take sides (even if you do really).
Keep all lines of communication open. Do not judge anyone and do or say nothing that might jeopardise your own chances of continuing to see your grandchildren. This may mean biting your tongue from time to time.
If your daughter or son remarries, you may become a step-granny; do welcome the opportunity if you can. The situation requires tact. Your new step-grandchildren have been through the upheaval of a broken marriage. Make allowances for the emotional turmoil they have suffered. Include them on outings and visits if they will come, but if they reject your overtures, back off: you may be trying to force an unwanted relationship on them. Just gently show that you are there for them as you would be for any other grandchildren.