How Can I Talk to My Kids About Their Grandparents’ Divorce?

You’re a Catholic family trying to live out the faith and raise your children in the beauty and truth that comes from God. But things can get complicated when close family members are doing the opposite. Divorce, addiction, cohabitation—to name just a few—are difficult things to explain to a young child, and even more difficult when the person in question is someone they love and trust.

Sarah recently called The Patrick Madrid Show asking for advice in a very tricky family situation for her four young kids.

She explained, “My husband’s dad is getting married for the sixth time—he’s not a practicing Catholic. But we are devout Catholics and we are raising our four kids and we are looking at how to navigate this with our kids. Do we allow them to meet her? … They aren’t planning on getting married anytime soon but they live together currently.”

Patrick offered this piece of advice for all families navigating difficulties with grandparents:

“Even in spite of the problems with their marriages—both of them are now living with somebody else who’s not their lawful husband or wife, and that does introduce a level of scandal. But nonetheless—my operating baseline principle is that these two people have a right to know their grandchildren,” he said.

Patrick goes on to explain that this is not an absolute right; the parents need to discern how comfortable they are with their children being exposed to different situations and sinful decisions.

He advised Sarah that at 5 years old and younger, her kids probably will not realize that there is anything wrong with the family dynamic. But as they get older, they may begin to ask questions. Patrick offers this simple explanation as a starting point:

“Grandpa and grandma used to be married. And Jesus said that when you get married, you are supposed to stay married your whole life, and they didn’t do that. And that’s between them and God. They made decisions, and that’s what they’re doing now. And you still have to respect them, you still have to love them, but just notice that they’re doing something that Jesus said not to do.”

Of course, the situation is further complicated by the fact that this is not a second marriage for grandpa, but the sixth. In that case, it may be prudent for Sarah and her husband to decide to not introduce their children to grandpa’s fiancée, though they would work to maintain a relationship with the grandfather.

Patrick said it seems entirely reasonable to explain to him, “We want to make this work, dad, because we love you and we want the kids to know you. But they’re just too young and too innocent. And look at what I went through with this revolving door of women coming in and out of your life—and I don’t want that for my kids.”

It can be a very difficult balance to maintain relationships with family members while also protecting our kids from poor decisions and sinful behavior. Our world is so broken and no family is immune to the effects of sin. Let’s pray for guidance as we navigate difficult situations and pray for the conversion of family members who have turned away from their faith.

Saint Monica and Augustine, pray for us!

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.