If this was your last holiday season with your spouse before your divorce gets underway, you likely spent part of it with other family members on both sides — particularly if you have children. While most parents want to make sure that their kids continue to see all of their grandparents after divorce, relationships with cousins, aunts and uncles can be more difficult to maintain or may simply not be a priority for the parent who isn’t related to them.
If your kids are close to these family members or they play an important role in their lives, it’s crucial for parents to work to continue to include them in activities and events. Co-parents often believe that it’s up to each person to deal with their own family members and invite them to spend time with the kids when they have them. However, it’s best when both parents can reach out to family members as they plan activities.
For example, if you’re planning a birthday or graduation party for one of your kids, consider inviting your co-parent’s parents, siblings, nieces and nephews rather than relying on your co-parent to do it. If your co-parent doesn’t think to reach out to their own family when your child’s involved in a concert, tournament or another event, take the initiative to extend the invitation yourself. This can help you maintain a cordial relationship with these relatives and help keep them in your children’s lives.
Unfortunately, you may not have a cordial relationship with all of your former in-laws. If your ex’s siblings or parents criticize you to or in front of your kids or seem to have filled their own children with negative ideas that they pass along, you should take steps to stop it. Depending on the relationship, you can talk to the person directly or ask your co-parent to talk to them. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t — allow negative and destructive messages around your kids. (Nor should you respond in kind by criticizing those people.)
As you and your co-parent work out your parenting time agreement, you may want to add provisions about including family members on both sides in your children’s lives. Cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents can be an important source of support and guidance to kids as they adjust to their new family dynamic after divorce and as they grow up.