Marriage brings two families together, giving the child two sets of extended families. Typical extended family structures are composed of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, while some are more complex and include other blood relatives.
As much as they are a significant part of a couple’s marital bond, they can also be a crucial anchor to keep things together for the child during divorce.
Taking on supportive roles for the child
Extended families can mitigate the potentially negative impact of the parental split on the child’s well-being and development by assuming the following roles:
- Emotional safe space: They can guide the child in processing the overwhelming emotions, listen intently and reassure feelings.
- Practical aid: They can take some load off the parents by assisting with caring for the child – transporting them to and from school, going with them in their social activities or teaching them valuable lessons when they can.
- Reliable resource: They can provide a sense of stability and continuity in the child’s routines through the familiar comfort of family rituals or traditions, such as holiday gatherings or summer vacations.
The level of an extended family’s involvement in the child’s life varies per family. For instance, research shows that grandparents who live in households headed by divorced mothers display a positive effect on the child’s adjustment. It cites a case study wherein the grandmother’s encouragement improved their divorced daughter’s parenting skills, which had a ripple effect on the child’s welfare.
Maintaining a united front for the child
It takes flexible parents to work together on a South Carolina parenting plan to accommodate the continued presence of extended families in their child’s life. However, conflicts are still inevitable. When issues escalate into legal disputes, both parties can benefit from an advocate who can walk them through their options. Doing so can help protect the child’s best interests.