When you and your spouse entered into your remarriage and formed a blended family, you also merged into a step grandparent situation. Even the best in-law and grandparent relationships can sometimes suffer during a divorce, but your children and your ex in-laws still need to maintain their close relationship. The question is, how?
It is always about the kids
First and foremost, value the loving and nurturing connections your ex in-laws have formed with their grandchildren. Assure your in-laws and your children that you treasure their relationship and expect the special bond they enjoyed before your divorce and remarriage to continue. Make a sincere effort to foster that bond. It is important, however, to make it clear to your ex in-laws that their grandchildren are now a part of a blended family in which step siblings are treated with equal respect and consideration. Let them know you realize it may take time for them to feel genuine love for their step grandchildren, but you expect them to act in the same loving manner toward the step grandchildren as they do their bio grandchildren.
Step grandparents may come with baggage
Step relationships are generally more complicated to maneuver through than primary relationships, and step grandparents are no exception. Remember that your ex in-laws have experienced your divorce and remarriage, too, and may bear resentment against one or more of the parties. Fair or not, step family relationships sometimes begin with difficulty. If your ex in-laws come with baggage, be as encouraging and positive as possible, and help by being understanding and patient. Millions of people fondly recall the important roles step family members have played in their lives, and step grandparents often hold an important place in their hearts.
Not that it will be effortless
Try to be helpful and cooperative with step grandparents as they create bonds with the step kids in your blended family. Be patient and supportive. You can share your own struggles to be accepted by your step kids, and encourage the new step grandparent to keep trying. Give everyone plenty of time. On the other hand, research indicates that the older the step grandchild, the less likely he or she is to develop a close relationship with a step grandparent, so persistence is important.
Important tips for step grandparents
- Do not push. Let your step grandchildren choose your grandparent name, and never insist they call you a traditional name. First names work with some families, and using a grandparent term with a first name, such as Papa Jim, is also a good solution. Do not force displays of affection. It is fine to ask, “Do you want to give me a hug?” but children, especially step grandchildren, should be able to accept or decline physical signs of affection.
- Do include your step grand kids in all grandchildren gift-giving occasions, but keep gifts reasonable and try not to hand over a gift every time you see your grandchildren, unless you see them very rarely.
- Stay out of family conflicts. Treat step grandchildren fairly. You may not immediately love them as much as your biological grandchildren, but do show sincere affection. Strive to enjoy a relationship with all of your grandchildren, and hide any differences in the way you may feel about them. Before you know it, step grandchildren and bio grandchildren will all feel loved equally and share their love with you!
Being a step grandparent or step grandchild in a blended family can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding. How wonderful must it be for a step grandchild to feel sincere love from someone who really does not “have to” love them? Probably the same delight your step child feels with the unconditional love of a step parent! A blended family is one that is especially chosen on purpose, in which everyone is loved and accepted because of who they are, not because of who they were born to. Enjoy your step family relationships. They are very special.