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Grandchildren and Divorce

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter and her second husband are having real problems...and will probably divorce. How can I help her children, (my grandchildren), a son, who is quiet and retiring but very bright,age 13,and her daughter,who is at the charming age of 18, has been an honor student, and now is having real difficulties in school.

I would like them to voluntarily open up and talk to me so they won't try to carry it all on their shoulders...but they are withdrawn. The boy comes to our house every day after school and stays through dinner (because of the school bus route). The girl, we see occasionally, but not as much as we would like . Once in a while, when things are really bad she calls us. My husband and I are retired. We love them dearly. Both of us have been professionals.

I appreciate your listening.

A: You are both dearhearts for being such loving, caring grandparents to children who are and have been going through some rough,emotional times. Just knowing you are there, always ready and wanting to help in any way you can is such an emotional anchor for them, even if it's difficult for them to open up to you.

If you are on good terms with your daughter and you can discuss your concerns for the kids without making her feel the cause of them, perhaps all of you could come up with some ways you could nurture them through these difficult times. The two of you could also see a family therapist a couple of times so she could help you formulate the best way for you to help these kids on an ongoing basis. You could also investigate whether there are any groups in your area for kids going through a divorce; these groups can be very helpful as kids share the similar things they are feeling and take strength from each other.

When you next see them and/or talk with them you might say something like, "We know this is a sad, painful time for you and that it's probably hard for you to talk about how all this makes you feel. But you can always come to us and talk about anything you want;we don't have all the answers but sometimes it helps to just talk and be with people who love you, and we sure do have lots of love for you." Good luck and thanks for being there for your grandkids.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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