In several other blogs, we have discussed the importance and means of preserving the relationship between you and your child after separation / divorce. However, there are other people in your child’s life whose connections with your child will change after your split. Recognizing these can help you take the necessary steps to protect your child’s valuable connections and bonds.
Your parents and your ex’s parents may be regular babysitters or emergency contacts for your child’s school or medical care. They might spoil your kids with treats on the weekend or special gifts on their birthdays. They could even be regular caregivers if either parent is unavailable or unfit.
Whatever role grandparents have, protecting it is surely crucial if the grandchild/grandparent relationship is positive. Whether you and your ex make explicit rules in a parenting agreement or we all just rely on relatively positive status quo, or even in the unusual situation where a grandparent seeks the court’s assistance – establishing the framework to protect this relationship can benefit all parties.
Cousins, aunts and uncles
Whether you see extended family every week or only on the holidays, maintaining these positive interactions can be really important for your child after a separation / divorce.
Spending time with their extended family can be a source of support and stability for your child. Ensuring these connections remain can help children recognize their place in a family.
School and neighbourhood friends
After parental separation, children often have to relocate. They can be living in new homes with new neighbours; they may have to change schools or stop participating in certain extracurricular activities.
You can help your child maintain their social relationships with neighbours and classmates by making every effort to work around new circumstances. You might arrange playdates or make sure they can attend things like school events, games and practices, even if they move to a different area.
Striving to help your child maintain friendships during your divorce can give them the reliable, familiar outlet they need.
One important note to consider is that just because people are family does not mean they have a right to spend time with your child. If anyone poses a threat to your child’s well-being or cannot be supportive of your kids, it may be worth separating them, at least temporarily.
That said, children have a difficult enough time adjusting to their parents split. Surrounding them with supportive, loving people can help them tremendously as they navigate this transition.
I often hear from grandparents asking about their “rights”. In Ontario, grandparents do not have “rights” as such. While judges tend to view grandparents as important, the courts will support that role only where it is of benefit to the grandchildren and generally speaking, only where there was an established pre-existing relationship. It’s best to secure legal advice in order to assess whether or not you really have a case.