I was at a drinks party given by my mother-in-law when one of her friends pulled me to one side and started to tell me about a situation that was distressing her.
"My son-in-law has left my daughter. I know things haven't been right between them for a while, and the children are very upset. I just don't know what to do. He's a good father, we're very fond of him, we don't want to take sides and at the same time .... she is our daughter. What should I do?"
When there is a break up in the family the grandparents often feel torn in their loyalties - not wanting to take sides and yet not wanting to seem unsupportive. I asked her what she felt most comfortable doing?
"Being there for the grandchildren," she replied without hesitation.
Her intuition was right. When there is tension between the parents, the grandparents can offer an environment that acts as a safe haven from the stress of family heartbreak. A place for a comforting hug with familiar routines and activities that give the children, battered and bruised from the emotional fall-out, a place to recover from their inner wounds.
It is distressing for all concerned when a marriage breaks down, but being able to provide a safe emotional space for the children is a precious gift from a loving and supportive grandparent.