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Maintaining Ties Between Children and Extended Family after Divorce

In the early days, ongoing relationships between your children and extended family after divorce is rarely high on the priority list.  However, with the holidays coming, considering extended family and ongoing relations is at hand.

Reassuring the Children

When couples divorce, reassuring the children about ongoing relationships with those they love is paramount.  As a starting point, discussing the division of parenting time provides the children with assurances they will continue enjoying the love and presence of both parents.  It may take several weeks of sharing parenting time for the children to adjust to the new schedule.  Once the new schedule becomes routine, it is time to move on to navigating relationships with extended family after divorce.

Continuing relationships with extended family after divorce provides continuity.  This offers added stability for children as they adjust to their new normal.  However, establishing contact between the children and extended family after divorce may require new rules.  Below are some suggestions for how to establish and maintain contact between the children and extended family after divorce.

Do Not Assume Anything

While some people think each parent should be responsible for extended family contacts on their own side of the family, in many families, this approach does not work to the child’s advantage. In almost every relationship, one spouse has taken on the role of social coordinator more than the other.  Do not assume each parent is equally willing and able to maintain ongoing relationships with extended family.  Rather, discuss this with your child’s other parent.  There are many approaches to including extended family.  It may take some time to figure out what works best for your family.  In fact, the approach that works best today may change over time.  There is no “right way” to nurture relationships with extended family after divorce.  However, not nurturing these relationships could deprive your children of a valuable support system.

Share Early and Often

When your child has a sporting event, a band concert, a dance recital, take the time to extend invitations to extended family – on both sides.  Consider establishing an email group or two.  In some families, the extended family on both sides may be included in a single email.  In others, email groups for both sides separately may be the order of the day.  Regardless of your method of communication, don’t hesitate to communicate special events with family on both sides.

When your ex’s extended family joins a celebration, take time recognizing their presence.  Let them know you appreciate their presence in your child’s life.

Be Flexible

Without a doubt, your child’s extended family will plan events without consulting your parenting time schedule.  There will be times when your ex’s family hosts a reunion, special dinner, or significant event during a day you have parenting time.  Of course, the reverse is also true.  There will be days your family celebrates a significant event when your ex has the children.  Establishing early on a willingness to be flexible provides the children with the comfort and security of knowing your commitment to their ongoing relationship with their extended family.

Set the Tone with Your Family

Many times, friend and family project their own perceptions of divorce onto others when they divorce.  It is up to you and your spouse to set the tone for your families.  Let them know your expectations of ongoing love and support for your children.  Nothing good comes of extended family making snarky, nasty, or negative comments about your children’s parents.  Make sure your family understands the importance of an ongoing loving and supportive environment as your children grow.

Holiday Celebrations and Extended Family After Divorce

As the holiday season approaches, take a moment or two to consider how you might handle the holidays.  If the holidays include, for example, a custody switch on Christmas Eve at grandma’s house, consider inviting the ex in for a glass of wine, or a short stay to chat with family.  This sends a message to the children that they may continue to enjoy extended family with the other parent’s blessing.  It also sends a message to extended family about the importance you place on creating a safe and comfortable environment for your children.

If your family exchanges gifts with extended family, let them know your child’s interests or specific gift desires.  Take care not to duplicate this list for both sides of the family.  Make an effort to ensure your child spends time with both sides of the family during the holiday season.  Celebrating the holiday with extended family, not celebrating on a given holiday, is what is important to your children.

If You Are Considering Divorce

Dealing with extended family during and after divorce can feel uncomfortable at first.  With practice, and a commitment to the best interests of the children, most couples come to a level of comfort dealing with extended family after divorce.

If you are considering divorce, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima.  Our attorneys dedicate our practice exclusively to family law.  Together, we have over 50 years combined experience, handling divorce, child support, custody, and parenting time issues for our clients.  We understand that each family situation is different, and each divorce is unique.  Let us put our experience to work for you and your family.  Whether you and your ex are on good terms, or you fear your divorce can only be accomplished by litigation, our attorneys are prepared to handle the unique challenges your case presents.  Our knowledge and experience allows us to recognize potential pitfalls, work towards mutual resolution where possible, and keep your best interests in mind.  Contact us today for a consultation.

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