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Grandparents Fan the Flame of Divorce

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Sadly, there's a lot of antagonism that builds after divorce. Instead of couples moving on with their lives, the grueling disruptions, the stresses, the ambivalence, the guilt, and the power struggles intensify hostilities.

Individuals who are not ready to fold their tents, seek new battlefields. They need allies to rally around them. And what better recruits than parents and grandparents who man the front line, prepared to fire off the first round?

The problem is that seniors in their zeal to protect their own can fan the flames of divorce. Resentment overshadows rationality. Their instinct to protect their own is often misguided.

Here are three such cases. Perhaps you can come up with your own.

The first occurred at a grandson's bar mitzvah during what is know as the Torah Passing Ceremony where family members stand in line on the bimah (stage) and the Rabbi symbolically passes the holy scrolls down from one generation to another. In this instance, Grandpa found himself standing next to the "enemy," the ex-mother-in-law he blamed for his daughter's failed marriage. To avoid handing the ex-law the Torah, he immediately went to the end of the line. The irony is that his grandson's Torah reading dealt with forgiveness.

This next story is about a grandmother who took her granddaughter shopping. "I remember stopping to look in the window of this very fancy men's store. I made some comment that this is where her father buys all his expensive clothing but refuses to give her mother, my daughter, enough alimony to live on. Betsy frowned. 'Grandma,' she said, 'I really wish you'd stop putting my father down. I know you mean well, but he is my father. It's time you got over it.'" From the mouths of babes.

The following is about a grandmother whose daughter and children lived with her. All week long she bad-mouthed her ex-son-in-law. Every Sunday he'd arrive promptly to take the kids out for the day and she kept him waiting in his car. When the kids got back, she drilled them for information. The children began to dread visiting day and made excuses not to see him. Eventually their father stopped coming around.

I would like to caution grandparents about crossing the line defending their child to the world. Two key points: Your child is an adult. This is his or her battle. You will do more damage than good when you take it upon yourself to take on the in-law(s), for example. And please don't make a public display of your feelings, especially in front of the grandkids. If you have to rant and rage, do it in private.

A piece of advice -- At some point, put down your dukes.

· You cannot fight your adult child's battles.

· Keep in mind that circumstances change. Wounds heal. At some point your son or daughter will get past the anger while you're still wallowing in it.

· Think about the grandchildren. Think about them again and again, and put yourself in their place. What do they really want said about the parent they still care about?

· You will become closer to your child by showing your support instead of fanning the flames of divorce.

· Your child is counting on your loyalty which is not the same as your anger.