Poor Miss Jenny. She handed each child in her class two sets of cards for her 1st grade class to prepare Grandparent’s Day cards for the upcoming grandparent’s day at school. Suddenly, little Susie throws up her hands and says she needs more because she has three grandmas. Before she has time to explain, Miss Jenny gives her another card and hopes that there won’t be an elderly catfight during the Grandparent dinner in her classroom. The facts show that many older people remarry, which only means that more and more children are growing up with more than 2 grandma’s and grandpa’s. This takes the extended family to a whole new level and can be more confusing for the adults than it is for the children.
When grandparents remarry, it is only natural that they will want their new spouse to share in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Many grandchildren come into this world knowing nothing else besides the fact that they have three grandmas or grandpas. Although they may ask questions early on about why so and so isn’t married, they normally just accept things the way they are. Provided that their parents do of course. With divorce rates soaring it stands to reason that many children in the next ten years will have plenty of grandparents in their life – broadening their horizons and their families. So, exactly how do you explain this to children?
The best answer is to wait until they ask. Certainly around the age of 5, your child will start wondering who belongs to whom in their life. They may want to know who your mom is and not understand the whole stepparent or “real” mom thing. Take the cautious approach and tell them just what you think they will understand. Most children, after a simple explanation will be satisfied with the results. If you talk about things such as Grandpa Joe used to be married to Grandma Kate, you will probably get some very cute and uncensored responses from the children. And this is okay. They don’t necessarily have to understand the aspects of marital trouble or what happened young in life (or ever for that matter) and will normally be happy just to have that many more presents given to them on their birthday.
As the parent, it is important to welcome the new grandparent into your child’s life. You don’t have to like them, you may still be bitter over the divorce and you may not want to spend a while lot of time with this ‘other’ person. However, in the presence of children it is important to act as if everything is okay. Children can pick up quickly and easily on their parents feelings and it isn’t fair to displace this responsibility on your children. Sometimes, the most difficult thing for parents when grandparents remarry is what to call the new husband or wife. Will calling him or her Grandpa or Grandma offend the other grandparent now single, or is it appropriate. Many times the kids will handle this for you, calling each something new and different out of self-convenience, and removing the struggles with labels and discomfort.
Obviously, having three grandmas at Grandparents Day can be a tad uncomfortable. Probably not for your child who will feel like the luckiest, most loved person in the room – but for the grandmas. Hopefully, they too can act like adults and make the best of the situation. If they don’t, it is up to YOU, as the parent, to decide who does what when and how. It is senseless to put your child in the midst of situation where the three grandmas don’t get along. Instead, plan separate birthday gatherings, holiday gatherings and schedule time separately but as equally as possible.
Now, when grandparents remarry obsessively – meaning that your child may have a new grandma or grandpa yearly based on your mom or dads dating habits, it probably isn’t such a good idea to allow your children to get too attached. Similarly, if you feel that the new grandparent doesn’t have the experience with children or doesn’t behave as you expect them to, you have the final say in how much time they spend with them. Yet, you should try to keep your personal feelings aside and make sure that you are acting on your child’s best interests rather than your own.
When grandparents remarry, which many of them do – you have two choices. You can accept it and hope to make the very best of the situation feeling confident in your choices. Or you can be disheartened and upset about it altogether. Often, even grown children forget that their parents have needs and desires that far outweigh what children can bring to their lives. If your mom or dad seems happy in their new marriage and has something positive to share, it is important that you support them as best as you can. If your kid is lucky, enough to have three grandparents then so be it. While you should still be the one to decide who shows up at Grandparents Day (for the sake of Miss Jenny), you should also be open to your child loving ALL of their grandparents whether blood related or otherwise.
The definition of family is constantly changing. It never remains the same. This is true for you and is also true for your parents. Embracing the people in your life, and allowing people to enjoy your children just as you do. The new grandma or new grandpa brought into your life when grandparents remarry may not have been who you picked, but you should strive to prevent that from keeping your child away from them.