Do I Need to Help My Kids Maintain a Relationship with My Ex’s Family?

Do I need help my kids keep a relationship with ex’s family?
Last Updated on June 13, 2023 by Carlos Lopez

Divorce and separation are never easy , especially when you’ve got kids involved. 

And when you’re leaving your relationship, you’re also leaving behind your ex’s family, the people you’ve grown to know and love – or at least tolerate. 

If you were the one to push your ex into spending time with their family while you were together, accepting all the party invitations, making sure everyone got to holiday gatherings, and setting up regular phone calls with your children, it may be a struggle when you’re no longer in that role.

What happens if my children no longer talk with their relatives, or attend family functions? Will their lives be less full and happy?

As the default relationship manager in your former partnership, you may wander if you bear any responsibility in helping your kids maintain a relationship with your ex’s family after your split.

Short Answer: No, You Don’t

Once you’re no longer a couple, you have no responsibility to make sure your children maintain a relationship with members of your ex’s family. That’s their job now, and they can either choose to take it on or ignore it. 

You certainly can help facilitate this relationship if you really want to – and if your ex is OK with your involvement – but you aren’t obligated to make sure your kids talk to Grandma and Grandpa.

And, if your children don’t seem terribly interested in keeping contact with these other family members, it may be best just to leave things as they are.

If you feel guilty about not ensuring that your children are contacting their elder family members, you can help with small gestures such as mailing holiday cards or sending email messages

If You’re Friendly with Your Ex’s Family

Sometimes, when a romantic relationship ends, you may still retain a relationship with your ex’s family. That’s fine, as long as you aren’t overstepping any boundaries for your ex!

If you’re still friendly with your ex’s family and your ex doesn’t seem interested in helping your kids stay in contact with their family, you can be the one to take over as long as you observe some etiquette:

  • Talk to your ex before you do anything. Your ex may not want you to be involved in their family life at all, even just to facilitate a relationship between the kids and their family. Even if you don’t think it’s the response you want, it’s a reasonable boundary your ex is putting up and you need to respect it.
  • Keep your distance. Do what you can to stick with long-distance methods of keeping contact between your children and your ex’s family, such as emails, phone calls, and mailed cards. If you set up a visit with your ex’s family during your parenting time, drop your children off and come pick them up later. This is especially important during the early stages of a split, helping everyone learn the way life is now and how to develop healthy boundaries.
  • Extend invitations to group events. As your children grow, there will be plenty of sports games, school events, and recitals you can invite their extended family to. If your ex feels comfortable with having their family at these events, you can certainly be the one to extend the invitation.
  • Respect your ex’s wishes. There may be a valid reason your ex is keeping the kids from their family, and you may not even know it. If your ex is adamant about keeping your children away from their family, don’t try to go around them and give the family access to your children.

Considerations When Helping Your Kids Stay Connected with Your Ex’s Family

Navigating post-divorce relationships is a tightrope walk.

Here are some considerations (specially if you are located in Washington D.C.):

Communicate Openly

Transparent communication forms the bedrock of this process. Discuss your intentions with your ex and their family.

Encourage your kids to express their feelings and concerns.This open dialogue can help everyone involved navigate the situation more effectively.

Set Boundaries

Just as important as maintaining ties is setting boundaries. These could involve visitation schedules, discussions about the ex-spouse, or how disagreements are handled.

Clear boundaries provide structure and prevent potential conflicts.

Encourage Interaction with your ex´s family

Foster an environment where your kids feel comfortable interacting with your ex’s family.

This could involve facilitating visits, allowing phone calls, or using technology for virtual hangouts.

Foster Independence

Teach your kids to manage these relationships independently over time. This might mean allowing them to plan visits or communicate directly with the ex’s family, promoting a sense of autonomy.

The Importance of Extended Family Relationships for Kids

A Sense of Belonging

Family provides a sense of belonging, an essential factor to children’s identity formation.

Extended family, including aunts, uncles, and grandparents, can offer additional layers of support and love that reinforce this sense of belonging.

Cultural and Family Traditions

Extended families often act as the custodians of family and cultural traditions. These traditions can provide a sense of continuity and connection, particularly during times of upheaval.

The Impact of Divorce on Family Relationships

Adjusting to New Norms

Divorce fundamentally alters family dynamics. Children must adjust to splitting their time between two households, and the extended family relationships also shift.

It’s crucial to help children navigate these changes without feeling like they’ve lost their broader family network.

Preventing Parental Alienation

In bitter divorces, it’s not uncommon for one parent to become estranged from the children.

If your ex’s family is supportive and respectful, maintaining a relationship with them can prevent your children from feeling alienated from one side of their family.

How to Handle Potential Issues

Despite the best efforts, challenges are bound to arise. Here’s how to tackle them:

Navigating Conflict

Conflicts could stem from differing parenting styles or resentment. In such cases, try focusing on what’s best for the kids.

If necessary, involve a neutral third party, like a family counselor, to mediate.

Dealing with Resistance from Your Ex’s Family

Your ex’s family might harbor negative feelings towards you that could affect your kids’ relationship with them. In such instances, open communication, understanding, and patience can go a long way toward easing tensions.

Handling Your Child’s Emotional Struggles

Children might feel confused or guilty about maintaining relationships with your ex’s family. Reassure them that it’s okay to continue loving and wanting to spend time with these relatives. Seek professional help if their emotional struggles persist.

If Your Ex Wants to Keep the Kids Away

Your ex may insist that your children not have contact with their family, or certain members of their family.

This may seem strange to you, especially if those family members were active and involved parts of your children’s lives before the split, but it isn’t ultimately your decision to make.

There may have been something that happened between your ex and their family, or your children and your ex’s family, that you don’t know about.

Going around your ex’s wishes only breeds resentment between the two of you, which can quickly erode a functional co-parenting relationship.

Take Your Ex’s Lead

If your ex doesn’t really seem to care about fostering a relationship with their family, and doesn’t care if you’re involved, then go ahead as long as it isn’t a huge burden to your life and schedule.

However, if your ex asks you to stay away, or actively avoids their family, you need to respect that.

You’d ask your ex to extend the same courtesy to you if the roles were reversed.

FAQs

1. How can I help my kids connect with my ex’s family without involving my ex?

You can foster a direct relationship between your kids and your ex’s family. Facilitate visits, calls, or virtual meetings. Over time, encourage your kids to manage these relationships independently.

2. How can I handle it if my ex’s family is hostile towards me?

Focus on your kids’ well-being. If direct interaction with your ex’s family is stressful, consider neutral locations for exchanges or use digital communication tools. Seek legal advice if necessary.

3. How can I explain the situation to my kids without burdening them?

Use age-appropriate language to explain the situation. Reassure them that their relationship with their extended family doesn’t have to change because of your relationship with your ex.

4. What if my child doesn’t want to maintain a relationship with my ex’s family?

Respect your child’s feelings. Encourage them to express their feelings and try to understand their reluctance. Professional help might be beneficial in these situations.

5. Should I involve a family counsellor?

If navigating the situation becomes challenging, involving a family counsellor can be beneficial. They can provide strategies, mediate conflicts, and help your child cope with their emotions.

Skilled Divorce Attorney in Washington, D.C.

Navigating life after a split can be frustrating and confusing. You need an attorney to help guide you through the process, advocating on your behalf every step of the way.

At Lopez Law Firm, you get our team’s years of experience paired with our compassionate representation from start to finish. Schedule your consultation today!

Comments

  1. Ana says:

    Comment: Well, I guess it depends on how much you like your exs familys lasagna!

  2. Amanda says:

    I totally get it, but personally, I think its important for kids to have connections with both sides of the family.

  3. Iris says:

    Well, I think it depends on the situation and the dynamics involved.

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