Divorce isn’t just the break-up of a marriage. It can be the break-up of two families. If you have a child, this can be particularly difficult. If your child is close to their grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins, it’s generally in their best interests to maintain those relationships post-divorce.
Kids can’t have too many people in their lives who care about them. Being able to spend time with a favorite aunt or uncle, play with cousins who may be as close as siblings to them or continue to have regular visits with grandparents can provide them with support and continuity through what can feel like a chaotic, uncertain time. Oftentimes, kids are able to share their feelings and fears more freely with these family members than with their parents.
Keeping negativity away from your child
Of course, you need to ensure that family members who are old enough to know better won’t use their access to your child to speak negatively about either co-parent or the divorce or to extract private information from them. If that’s the case, it needs to be dealt with promptly – usually by the parent to whom they’re related. If they are your co-parent’s relatives and your co-parent won’t deal with it, you may need to. You can emphasize that you want your child to continue to see them, but this kind of negatively upsets and confuses them.
Reach “across the aisle” to your co-parent’s family
Oftentimes, co-parents leave it to each other to arrange for their child to spend time with the people on their side of the family. However, it’s best when co-parents can reach out to family members on both sides.
For example, if you’re planning a birthday party for your child, consider inviting your co-parent’s family members who have attended these gatherings in the past rather than asking your co-parent to do it. This can go a long way toward helping maintain a cordial relationship with them. You’re likely going to be seeing them for many years to come – at least on milestones like graduations, weddings, births and more, so setting a solid foundation now can be helpful.
As you and your spouse/former spouse work out your parenting plan, you may want to add a provision or two regarding extended family. This can help you codify your goals of keeping them in your child’s life and help you to prevent conflicts in the future.