Do I have to let my children see their grandfather?

Background: My father has recently chosen to leave his faith, family, and my mom – his wife of forty years. My mom is willing to forgive and work through this, but he says he has made his choice. He is involved in an adulterous affair with a woman who is my age and who has five young children, some of whom are close in age to my three children (with one on the way). My children are now 6, 5, and 2 years old. This woman was a close family friend. My father plans to move in with his co-adulterer, “marry” her, etc. Until now, my children have always enjoyed a very close relationship with my parents. We live five hours apart but I have always made an effort to travel there several times each year.

Issue: My father is begging me to not keep his grandchildren away from him. Because of my former friendship with his co-adulterer, he thinks we can be one big happy blended family and I disagee. My father says I should “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I know we are all sinners and imperfect and I do love him, but I do not wish to condone his behavior nor expose my children to his immoral choices. None of my three siblings have children yet, so they do not have this question about a grandparent/grandchildren relationship.

Questions: Am I morally obligated to let my father see his grandchildren to honor my father? Or am I morally obligated to protect my innocent children from this sinful situation? If it is a combination of the two, how do I handle that? Also, how should I explain to my young children why Grandpa doesn’t live with Grandma anymore? Thank you.

Your father has indeed “made his choice” and that means he must live with the consequences of that choice, one of which is restricted access to his grandchildren because of the need to protect them from exposure to his immoral lifestyle. I can’t recommend entirely severing the relationship between your father and your children, but I do recommend insisting that there must be conditions upon such visits.

One such condition might be that there only be supervised visits between the grandchildren and him alone (not the step-grandmother and her children). Another condition might be that he entirely refrain from discussing his “new life” (i.e., the new wife and stepchildren) with your children. If you decide to include him in family events (e.g., holidays, children’s birthdays and milestone celebrations), you might make clear that the invitation does not extend to his wife and stepchildren.

If he is willing to accept and follows your conditions, then you may be able to maintain your children’s direct relationship with their grandfather. Otherwise, I can only recommend that you explain to him that his contact will be limited to letters, mailed presents and cards, emails, and monitored phone calls (at least until the children are old enough to begin to be taught about the situation and your values in this area).

As for what to say to your kids now about Grandma and Grandpa’s living arrangements, try to say as little as possible. Your first priority must be to try and protect your children’s innocence as long as is possible. For now you might say when visiting Grandma (if your children ask), “Grandma lives here. Grandpa now lives [across town, in Miami, or whatever applies]. You’ll be able to see [call, write] Grandpa soon.” If they press and you don’t feel they are old enough to be told more, you need merely say, “That’s a grown-up matter. We need to respect Grandma and Grandpa’s privacy.”

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