Sunday 4th October 2015, is Grandparents Day. Celebrated in the USA since 1978 and introduced to the UK in 1990 by the charity Age Concern, Grandparents Day is an opportunity for families and communities to honour and celebrate the 14 million grandparents in the UK. Although not as commercially successful as Mother's and Father's Day, this year we’ve noticed businesses advertising specialised gifts and greeting cards for Grandparents. One well known florist suggests saying "Thank You" to your grandparents for all their love and support with a stunning bouquet of flowers.
For many, being a grandparent is about having a child in the family without the responsibility, but with all the pleasure. However, for others, the role of the Grandparent has significantly changed. Research published in 2011 found that Grandparents play an increasingly prominent role in their grandchildren’s lives. Grandparents are often thought of as providing a cheap and easy childcare option.
Whatever their role, Grandparents have a valuable part to play if there is family breakdown and separation which can be an extremely difficult time for grandchildren. There are some significant ways grandparents can help their grandchildren through their parents’ separation. For example helping maintain routines including school and other activities or helping with facilitating the children spending time with both parents. Grandparents can also use their special relationship to help their grandchildren to help children talk about their feelings with parents valuing that their children have someone to talk to. Children often blame themselves for family break up and grandparents play a valuable role in reassuring their grandchildren it was not their fault.
Sadly, for some grandparents parental separation will result in weakened relationships and the Grandparents Association estimate that one million children lose touch with their grandparents as a result of parental separation. Whilst Grandparents have no automatic right to contact with their grandchildren, Mediation is a process that can help to reduce conflict between family members and a place where conversations can be had about arrangements for the children.