Divorce, no matter that circumstances, impacts more than the nuclear family, especially when families may have existing boundary issues.
Southern California psychotherapist and relationship expert Stacy Kaiser, contributor to Live Happy Magazine, advises, "Families need a structure but with some flexibility within that structure for unusual circumstances."
That might mean switching off every other Thanksgiving but one year, the Grandma and Grandpa are taking the whole family on a Fiftieth Anniversary trip - and it's not your year. It's better for the kids and the divorced couple if both are willing to occasionally bend the schedule for good reason.
Grandparents and extended family may need to be educated that this is a new situation with certain rules in place. Within the structure, lay out how it's going to be 95% of the time, with room for some flexibility.
Family functions like bar or bat mitzvahs, graduations, and weddings may require sorting out logistics such as seating. The hardest thing about being divorced, shares Kaiser, is the need to do lots of strategizing and planning to avoid conflict.
"When you're mad at someone and have issues, it's hard to do that but critical," shares Kaiser. "People in the wings don't want to feel punished because you two didn't work out," she says. "Extreme personality types don't make it easier when you're divorced. Even within a marriage, there may be extra people in the bed. When you're divorced, there may be extra people pulling on the rope."
As with many issues post-divorce, people may lose sight of what's best for the kids because they're busy thinking about what they want and not what's best for the grandkids. Kaiser stresses the importance of setting boundaries while being flexible and reasonable, with a willingness to make changes if needed.
People in divorce often put winning over what's best for everyone and then, everyone loses. That's why I always tell people that divorce is really hard. On top of that, you have to be clean-headed and rational, good at problem solving and strategizing, keeping in mind what's best for the kids, shares Kaiser.