Short Answer: No
No, you are not obligated to facilitate a relationship between your children and your ex’s family. That’s your ex’s job.
And if your children seem indifferent to whether or not they talk to Grandma and Grandpa, it may be best to just let sleeping dogs lie.
Sure, you can help them with small gestures, such as mailing holiday cards or even sending email messages, but there’s nothing that says you have to work out times to see them during your parenting time.
What If I Am Still Friendly with Them?
If you’re still friendly with your ex’s family and your ex just doesn’t seem to want to facilitate a relationship, you can be the one to make the moves as long as you observe a few key etiquette points:
- Talk to your ex first. If you’re going to have continued contact with your ex’s family, even just to facilitate a relationship with your children, you need to make sure your ex is fine with the arrangement. Your ex may prefer that you don’t have any further contact, and you need to respect that.
- Keep your distance. Try your best to stick to long-distance methods of fostering a relationship between your children and your ex’s family, including phone calls, emails, and mailed cards. If you set up a visit with your ex’s family during your parenting time, drop off your children and come back to pick them up later. It’s best to avoid putting yourself in close proximity with your ex’s family, especially soon after a split, to maintain proper boundaries.
- Extend invitations to group events. School events, sports games, and recitals are exciting times for kids, and grandparents love to attend. If your ex’s family lives nearby, extend invitations to events on neutral grounds that they may like to attend.
- Respect your ex’s wishes. There may be a reason your ex is keeping your kids away from their family that you may not be aware of. If your ex is adamant about their family staying separate from your children, do not try to do an end-run around them and start a relationship.
What If My Ex Wants to Keep the Kids Away?
In some cases, your ex may be insistent that your children not have contact with their family, or with certain members of their family.
While this may seem strange to you, especially if those family members were active and involved parts of your children’s lives before your split, you need to respect their decision. It’s well within your bounds to ask your ex why they want to stay away, but don’t expect or demand a solid answer.
There may have been something that took place between your ex and their family – or even your children and your ex’s family – that you’re unaware of.
Side-stepping your ex’s wishes will only encourage resentment between you two, something that doesn’t make for a successful co-parenting relationship.
Ultimately: Take Your Ex’s Lead
If your ex is ambivalent toward your kids maintaining a relationship with their family, and doesn’t care if you’re the one to do all the heavy-lifting, then go ahead.
But if your ex actively seeks to stay away from their family, respect that.
You’d hope for the same courtesy extended to you by your ex if roles were reversed.
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Breaking up is hard to do, and it can be especially difficult if you have children.
Throughout your relationship with your ex, you were the one that made sure your children got to know both sides of the family. You invited people to birthday parties and dinners, you made the effort to attend family events, and you bought gifts for every holiday.
Now that you’re not together, your ex doesn’t seem to care about making sure that your children see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives with any regularity. And forget phone calls and sending gifts.
You may feel terrible that your ex’s family is missing out on time and memories with your kids, especially if family is very important to you.
And it all may make you wonder: Am I obligated to help my kids maintain a relationship with my ex’s family?