In this episode, we dive deep into the important topic of grandparents in blended families and are fortunate to have Claudette Chenevert, also known as The Stepmom Coach, joining us as our special guest. During our chat we explore the significant role that grandparents play in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of blended families and Claudette shares her vast personal and professional expertise and insights on the subject. We delve into: the crucial role that grandparents can play in supporting the co-parenting relationship between their adult child and their ex-partner the delicate balance of managing boundaries; and navigating family events and special occasions in blended families. Claudette also shares her wisdom on the most important thing grandparents can do to build strong relationships with their grandchildren.
Claudette Chenevert (00:00): Think about what do I really want this day to look like? How do I want this experience to be remembered? How do I want my grandchildren to see us? And to view us in the Blend is a podcast series that helps parents navigate life within a blended family. Join me as I speak with experts and guests to get practical advice on how to have a harmonious, blended family life. This series dives deep into the unique dynamics, logistics and challenges of raising a blended family from new partners to juggling mixed finances, we will help guide you through it.
Laura Jenkins (00:43): Welcome to another episode of In The Blend. In this episode, we dive deep into the important topic of grandparents in blended families, and I am thrilled to have the wonderful Claudette Chenevert, also known as the Stepmom Coach joining us today as our special guest. During our chat, we explore the significant role that grandparents play in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of blended families. Claudette shares her vast personal and professional expertise and insights, shedding light on the common challenges faced by grandparents and offering practical advice on how to navigate these complexities. We delve into the crucial role that grandparents can play in supporting the co-parenting relationship between their adult child and their ex-partner, the delicate balance of managing boundaries and we tackle the topic of navigating family events and special occasions in blended families. Claudette also shares her wisdom on the most important thing grandparents can do to build strong relationships with their grandchildren. If you’re a grandparent in a blended family, there are many pearls of wisdom in this one for you. I hope you enjoy the conversation just as much as I did.
(01:57):Well, welcome Claudette, and thank you so much for being here today.
Claudette Chenevert: Well, thank you Laura. I’m very happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
Laura Jenkins: Thank you so much. Claudette, you are a stepmom of 30 years, is that correct? A step-grandmother. You are a stepmum coach and you are also the founder of the Stepfamily Summit, which is an annual online summit design specifically for Stepfamilies. I know you’ve also written a book called The Stepmom’s Book of Boundaries and I know that because I’ve read it and I found it immensely helpful. So you, you’re clearly very, very experienced in the space.
Claudette Chenevert: Well, thank you. Oh yeah, of course, of course.
Laura Jenkins: And I was just saying to Claudette before we started recording that given her experience, there are so many directions that we could have gone in for this chat and we’ve decided today to focus on the area of grandparents and blended families.
(02:58): And the reason is that Claudette has got seven of her own and definitely knows a thing or two from both her personal and professional lens when it comes to all things grandparents and, and stepfamilies.
So Claudette, let’s start with what are some of the common challenges that grandparents may encounter when they’re navigating their role in a blended family?
Claudette Chenevert: Well, thank you for for having me here and just wanna make a question. I have now eight grandchildren. We have a new, another one that popped in. So some of the challenges of being a, a grandparent in a blended family is that, you know, oftentimes the sense of not being first or not being the only one still continues when you are in a family with grandchildren. And by that what I mean is that, you know, when the grand babies arrive, everybody’s excited, everybody wants to be there in their room and, and be the one holding the babies.
(04:13):And, and if you are a step grandparent or the stepparent of, of these adult kids, it’s hard because the mum wants to have her own mother there. And if you are the stepmum, it’s hard because you want to be there as well. And so the loyalty bind that was probably present in the beginning in your early relationship as stepmum will often continue later on. And this is where you have to understand that as someone who’s having their first baby, they will often want to have their own biological parent. Now, this isn’t always the case. I will say that I was fortunate in the misfortune that I was the one that was present when my stepdaughters had their first babies. And not that they didn’t want their mother, it was just unfortunate that she wasn’t available to be there for them. And I could sense that although they would’ve wished to have their mother, they did accept me as the grandmother of their grandchild for the grandchildren.
Laura Jenkins: I can imagine that there’s a whole range of different emotions that are going, going through not only your head as the grandparent in that situation and also the stepchild who’s having the baby. How can grandparents support the co-parenting relationship between their adult child and their ex-partner? So are, and are there any strategies or communication approaches that you found to be successful in that regard?
Claudette Chenvert: Great question. And you know, this is where we have to sometimes put our own personal issues or, or, or emotions or challenges aside and think that this grandbaby did not ask to be put in the middle of a tug of war that may have gone continue to, to be going on. And so what we did in order to help our children, our my son and, and our my two stepdaughters, is to let them know that we are available to help and support you in any way.
You, you need us. We are not going to impose ourselves in saying we wanna be called grandma or grandpa or we have to have first dibs or we have to be there all the time. New parents, they’re learning how to be a new parent if they’re having their stepparents and their biological parents and not, and let’s not forget they have their in-laws that may have like two sets of in-laws as well. So they could be like as many as four sets of grandparents involved. The best thing to do is to everybody understand that the parents need to have time for their new baby or their grandbaby, their child to to get together, to, to learn to be parents. And for the grandparents to not get involved in trying to create some kind of like, I wanna be first, so I wanna be the grandparents.
As the children, the grandchildren grow, you’ll have opportunities to create special moments. And this is something I love to share. As I said, we have eight grandchildren and sharing our grandchildren with all the other extended grandparents we had to find something creative that made it, that the grandkids would remember us. And so every year, twice a year, we do what we call Camp Grandmere – Grandmere being the French word for grandmother. And so what we do is we have all the grandkids come together when it’s possible and have a sleepover, maybe one or two nights and have a sleepover. And we do everything the grandkids. Now I think it’s important to understand that it’s not a competition and it’s not a matter of saying, Hey, you know, you go see your other grandparents more often than us, or you don’t spend as much time, or we’re spending way more money on our grandkids than the other person.
Because it’s easy to get lost in the competition of wanting to show our grandkids, we want to be the favorite or to be there for them. Grandchildren will remember more how they felt when they were with you, and they will remember more of the experiences rather than especially positive experience, rather than the amount of toys you get them or you know, how much money you spent on them. Remember these kids, they just wanna be loved. And so if you didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy your step kids or your kids when they were growing up, think of this as a second chance to be able to be with these kids and to do things maybe you didn’t have an opportunity to do with your own children.
Laura Jenkins: That’s such a nice way of thinking about things and approaching the situation. I know there’d be many people listening who that that comment would be resonating with for sure.
So I’m keen to talk about boundaries and I know that grandparents often play a significant role in providing support and that stability. And even if it’s not happening that often, if it’s happening during camp grandparent time only <laugh> it’s happening. Yeah. So how can grandparents effectively balance their involvement and still maintain healthy boundaries within that family dynamic as well, so they’re not not stepping on toes?
Claudette Chenevert: Yeah, excellent question. You know, part of the thing is to understand that as a grandparent, you are not the parent. Now, I see this in a, in a way where you are not, you haven’t become the legal guardian. I know that there are certain situations and they’ve known plenty where the grandparent became the legal guardian of their grandchildren. So we’re not going to talk about when you become the legal guardian or the legal person taking care of your grandchildren.
So in terms of setting healthy boundaries, first of all, you understand that you are not the parent, you are the grandparent. And so what the parents is, it is their decision. If you do not agree or if you would like to have a conversation, it’s a conversation you have with your adult child, not in front of the grandchildren. This isn’t about putting your grandchild, your parents. The other thing is that there’s always, you can always have conversations about you see that, you know, maybe this is worrisome and I’ll, I’ll give an example. Either electronics, whether it’s cell phones or computers, tablets, you know, I know in our family we sort of like saw our kids giving a few, giving tablets to our kids and we said, this is way too young. But again, this is, this isn’t our decision. We may have a viewpoint, but this isn’t our decision.
And so how we set boundaries around technology, for example, is that when our grandchildren come to our house to spend time with us, there’s no electronics. And so they can do, have all the electronics they want at their, their parents’ house, at their friend’s house, but then when they come to our house, we have none. This is electronic free zone. And so by normal kids, our grandkids will say, but we can do this at our parents, why can’t we do it with you? Right? And so we teach our, our grandkids as we did our kids that every home is different. And just like when you go to school, you have different rules, you have different regulations, there’s different boundaries. If you go to your friend’s house, there’s different boundaries there. When you come to our house, there’s different boundaries as well. The other thing I’m thinking is how about when your children want you to be babysitting or caregiving or taking care of your, of your grandchildren all the time.
This is a conversation you really have to ask yourself. And with your your spouse, do I really want to commit every day to taking care of our grandkids? If that’s something you really wanna do, then have a conversation. I know for us, we did not. So my oldest granddaughter is turning 20, but when she was a baby both the parents were like working a lot and spending a lot of time at work and having a hard time finding a daycare. And so we agreed that one day a week, only one we would have her over and we would spend the day with her and then we’d have time on the weekends. And we did this because when we knew it would help them out. But it also allowed us to have someone on one time with her without sacrificing our own time as grandparents. So when it comes to boundaries, I think it’s really important to understand does it align with your values?
Does it align with your beliefs? For us, we wanted to stay grandparents. We didn’t want to be like a second parent. We didn’t wanna be seen as the replacement of parents. And again, this is such an individual topic or an individual approach that you really need to have a conversation with yourself, your partner, your spouse, and your children to see what is it that you really need. Now I know that as adult children, some of them move back home with their children, and then you bec you have what I call boomerang generation where they move back home and they bring their children back home. So this is another conversation where you say, okay, you can come and live with us. How long do you plan on staying with us? What are some of the rules and regulations we’re going to put in place about food, about paying bills?
Will you be contributing in paying bills? Who’s gonna take care of the children? Do you plan on having daycare? Do you expect us as grandparents to be taking care of them? So there’s a lot of conversations that needs to be had before any agreement is done. And assuming that everybody understands what the agreement is, is a, a recipe for conflict and chaos, definitely. I imagine that is something that’s coming up more and more. I know here in Australia the cost of living’s going up quite significantly at the moment. And especially in cases where your adult children might have even left their partner or their their husband or wife. It, it might also be an impetus for them to, to come back, come back home.
Laura Jenkins: I want to ask about some practical ways or tips that grandparents can navigate family events. So things like birthdays or special occasions, holidays, Christmas time. What what can they do to ensure that all of the children feel valued and included at this time? And also take care of their own wellbeing as well.
Claudette Chenevert: Exactly. And so I mentioned Grande and that came out from not being able to see our grandchildren and our own children around Christmas, the holidays, new Year’s. So imagine with eight grandchildren, there’s a lot of birthdays, there’s a lot of parties. And so we created these special moments is that make it, that it’s unique to us and we get to enjoy them. Now if we’re talking about graduations or weddings or you know, special one-time events, these can be a little bit more complicated. And so, you know, when you think about, you know, a one time event where it’s something that only happens once and we’ll use graduation or, or something like this as an example, you only have one graduation, so you’re not going have many.
And this is to think this, the the idea is focus on the kids, the grandkids. This isn’t about a family feud about like, you said this to me three years ago, I’m not going to talk to you anymore. This isn’t helping, this isn’t helping the child. If you want to have a good loving and caring relationship with your grandchildren, you really need to put aside any of the disagreements you had with a prior ex with children or stepchildren that you didn’t get along with. This is an opportunity to really look at what is it I truly want, what is the the end goal of attending an event of our grandchildren. So this is a time where you say, this is how I’m going to be. So, we’re, we’re gonna talk about mindset a little bit. Think about, you know, what do I really want this day to look like?
How do I want this experience to be remembered? How do I want my grandchildren to see us and to view us? So one of the things my grandchildren and my nephews and nieces often say is that they really enjoyed seeing us behave and act as positive role models. So, you know, think of yourself as a role model for your grandchildren. Cause we grandchildren need grandparents. It’s not enough obsolete thing. I really truly believe that grandparents have a very unique and positive role that they can contribute to the wellbeing of their grandchildren. And so behave in a, that you would like your grandchildren to be proud of you and put aside your differences. It’s just one day, it’s, it’s not an entire life. And if you are able, like if it’s for birthday parties or especially events of that sort, and you feel like I wanna do something unique, you can celebrate more than once.
It doesn’t have to be on a specific day, especially if it’s a birthday party, do something unique. Do something that’s take them out for dinner or for a coffee or like a soda or something. You know, focus on the experience rather than giving stuff. There’s, that is I think the most important message I would love to leave people who are grandparents, is to focus on the experience and to focus on what your grandchildren would appreciate from you rather than focus on other people, the exes, the extended family, what they’re gonna say do, but focus on enjoying the presence of that grandchild. That’s really, really good advice. Thinking about mindset, which you mentioned, I think that’s so important in all sorts of blended family roles and dynamics for, for people to be thinking about. What resources would you suggest, Claudette, for people who want to get their hands a little bit dirty with some of the, the tips and tricks that have worked for you in your experience in when it comes to, you know, building their skills around that?
You know, I have several resources. One, you can always visit my website, which is www.stepmomcoach.com. There is an upcoming summit in September where I talk with, I interview over 20 experts in different areas of stepfamily dynamics. And that is the stepfamily summit.com. And this is an opportunity for you to listen free of charge to over 20 experts who will share. And this year we’re talking about mindset. That’s why I shared a little bit of mindset. And then the other resource I really love to talk about is Stepmom Magazine. If you have not had an opportunity to look or peruse through that magazine it is full of great advice and tips to support and encourage you in a positive way to build positive relationship with extended family. Understand that we’re not talking here, that we know it’s going to be easy or simple, any of this.
It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort. In the end it is worth it that you can build that kind, have that kind of relationship with, with your grandchildren. And then we talked about my book the Stepmom’s book of Boundaries, which is really about setting healthy boundaries inside. There’s exercises and activities to help you set boundaries. And boundaries aren’t something that are set in stone. They’re flexible. And as we grow older, like I know my boundaries have changed a lot. I let my grandkids do a lot more things in our home than our kids ever did. And our kids will say, why are you letting them do this? Yeah, but we’re grandparents. We, we can <laugh>. That’s the fun of it, isn’t it?
Laura Jenkins: Yes, yes. Claudette, I just, to come, come back to some of those resources that you mentioned.
I have not attended a Stepfamily summit before, but I’m absolutely going to be signing up for the summit in September. What a fantastic resource. So thank you for pulling that together and yeah, definitely sounds like a, a treasure trove of useful information will come out of that. We talked about the book already and and then the magazine I have subscribed or I do subscribe to Stepmom Magazine. For listeners who might not be familiar with it, ithe American spelling of the word stepmom. So it’s, it’s Step mom Magazine and Claudette has contributed some articles to that magazine. It comes out monthly and I personally have found that a really, really useful resource as well. So we will make sure that we link to all of those in the show notes. Claudette, just before we wrap up, is there any final words of advice that you’d like to give to grandparents who are seeking to have a positive impact and build those strong relationships?
Yes. Understand that your role as a grandparent is very valuable to your grandchildren. And even though at times you may feel like you’re not contributing that much, you, you fear that you’re not that involved in your grandchildren’s life. Remember, it doesn’t take that many moments to really make a difference in a child’s life. It’s how you make them feel and that that they know you care and love them. That will make the biggest impact. So don’t focus on getting toys and stuff and, and out grandparenting another person. <Laugh>, right? It’s not a competition. Really. Something as simple, maybe as a sending a handwritten note or a handwritten postcard can have a huge impact and make a big difference to your grandchildren.
Laura Jenkins: Very, very wise advice. Thank you so much Claudette, once again, really appreciate your time today and all of the super valuable insights that you’ve shared.
Claudette Chenevert: Thank you so much, Laura. I really appreciate being here. Thanks for listening to the In the Blend podcast. The show notes for this episode are available at intheblend.com au. And if you like what you heard, be sure to subscribe and please rate and review in your podcasting app. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.