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Parenting for the second time

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Up until grandparents receive the devastating news that their adult child's marriage is over, their role is to entertain their grandchildren, to babysit them, or to simply spoil them rotten, as typically grandparents and their homes, are a safe haven for the grandchildren.

When parents are absent or unable to raise their children after divorce, grandparents are often the ones who step in. Raising a second generation brings many rewards, including the fulfillment of giving your grandchildren a sense of security, and keeping the family together. It also comes with many challenges. No matter how much you love your grandchildren, taking them into your home requires major adjustments for everyone.

Moving to a new home is never easy, even in the best of circumstances. When children are dealing with the loss of regular contact with their parent or parents, the move is even harder. It will take some time for your grandchildren to adjust, and in the meantime, they may act especially contrary and difficult.

Here are a few tips which hopefully will help your family adjust to the new living arrangements.

• Establish a routine. Routines and schedules help make a child’s world feel safe. Set a schedule for mealtimes and bedtimes. Create special rituals that you and your grandchildren can share on weekends or when getting ready for bed.

• Set up clear, age-appropriate house rules and enforce them consistently. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. Loving boundaries, tell the child he or she is safe and protected.

• Make sure that each grandchild has a private space. If grandchildren are sharing a bedroom, get creative: use a divider to partition off a private area in a bigger room.

• Offer your time and attention. You can be a consistent, reassuring presence for your grandchildren. Try to make time to interact with them at the beginning of the day, when they come home from school, and before bed. Communicating openly and honestly with your grandchildren is one of the best things you can do to help them cope in any situation. It’s especially important to take the time to really listen to them. In this difficult time, they need an adult they can go to with their questions, concerns, and feelings. When deciding what to tell your grandchildren about the situation, it’s important to consider their age and developmental skills.

• Avoid telling the child too much. Many children are simply too young to understand the whole story. When grandparents tell a young child all of the details of the situation, they may be doing more harm than good. Too much information can be confusing, scary, and overwhelming for the child.

• Avoid telling the child too little, or nothing at all. Children are smart. They will pick up tidbits about their situation, even if the details are not discussed directly. If children learn about what’s going on from someone else, they could feel hurt, deceived, and confused. They may avoid asking you questions or talking to you about other important concerns because they think certain topics are “off limits.”

• Avoid criticism of the child but focus on the behavior instead: When your grandchild acts out in a harmful and spiteful manner, tell him or her that such behavior is unacceptable and suggest alternatives. Avoid statements such as: "You're bad."

• Be assertive, yet kind when pointing out what they have done wrong. Be serious, but mean, when you tell them what you expect. Avoid public humiliation.

• Enforce rules that apply to every person leading a happy and productive life; do not model rules of your ideal dream person.

• Control your temper, and communicate clearly. Children should be very familiar with the consequences of their actions. If you give them a punishment, be sure they understand the reason and the fault, if you cannot articulate the reason, and how they are at fault, the punishment will not have the discouraging effects, you desire.

• Reasonably model the behavior and character you hope your grandchildren will adopt and continue to live by the rules that you set. Lead them by example in addition to verbal explanations – they watch examples, better than they listen to preaching.

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