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Health & Sex

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What to Do When Your Children Divorce

Tips for parents whose son or daughter is getting divorced.

Try Not to Alienate Your Child's Ex continued...

Besides, the couple might reunite someday or stay connected after the divorce, and your words could come back to haunt you, Temlock says. And remember, no matter what happens, having a respectful relationship with your ex-in-law helps to keep open the gateway to your grandchildren.

Don't alienate the in-law's extended family, either, Temlock advises. She recalls one grandfather who refused to stand by his ex-in-laws at their grandson's bar mitzvah. "He was so angry at the in-laws -- and this was many years after his daughter's divorce -- that he refused to stand next to them and receive the Torah," she says. "Can you imagine this beautiful occasion and this grandfather was so set in his anger that he couldn't even make a public display of conciliation?"

Take the high road, Temlock advises. Behave civilly, even if for no other reason than to protect your grandchildren's feelings.

Home In on Your Grandchildren's Needs

Grandparents can't replace parents, but they can give grandchildren a sense that they belong to a larger family network, Temlock says. That matters a lot because children often fear abandonment after a divorce. They feel insecure and worry about the future, she writes: "Who will take care of me? Where will I live, go to school? Where will we get money? Where are my parents going to live? Will the other parent leave, too?"

"This is your time to really be the stabilizer," Temlock says. "You need to remove the grandchild from stressful situations, and one of the things you can do is provide some stability in your own home."

For example, routine becomes important to give grandchildren a sense of comfort and consistency when their lives are in great flux. Keeping their toys in the same spot, keeping overnight sleeping arrangements the same, doing familiar cooking projects, adhering to a weekly ritual of going out for pizza -- all of these things help calm children during the turbulence of divorce.

In contrast, some grandparents, like the Wallers, lose contact with grandchildren and worry about being portrayed as part of the "enemy camp." Tracee Crawford, 49, of Boise, Idaho, enjoyed a close relationship with her grandson, Adam, until he was 6. But when Adam's mother, who was Crawford's oldest daughter, died of cancer a few years after her divorce, the boy moved away to live with his father and stepmother.

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