When a divorce takes place, there’s an overwhelming amount of emotions that accompany the decision. There’s sadness for the couple, wondering what happened, trying to figure out what the next steps are. But what about the parents of the couple divorcing? Their emotions tend to end up on the back burner. If they’re involved in their kids’ lives, however, they have an emotional investment in the situation, and if you find yourself in that position, you may be wondering how to process the decision too. There are definitely some do’s and don’ts for helping your children cope, but it’s important for you to go through the process with them.
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Accept the Decision
You need to remember that, by the time you learn that your adult child is preparing to divorce, he or she has been living with the situation for a while. You may be blindsided by the news, but it’s crucial that even in the midst of your distress, you do not say or do the wrong thing – that decision is something that could do permanent damage to your relationship. Here are a few specific do’s and don’ts:
Do support your child. Do this immediately and unequivocally – they need to know that no matter what, you love them unconditionally and that you’re going to help them through the process.
Do offer your help. Whether it’s with the kids, offering a temporary place to stay, or helping them find a lawyer, your child may need some help in areas you can be used, but won’t come out and ask. Offering your help can take a huge weight off of their shoulders.
Don’t look for reasons. Perhaps you know, or think you know, the reasons for their marital issues, but you may not know everything, and your child may not want you to know the whole story. Don’t push your limits as a parent – they need to figure out how to deal with the situation in their time.
Don’t knock the in-law. Some couples can and will reconcile. If that happens with your child, anything you against their spouse could come back to haunt you. Choose your words carefully.
Don’t try to fix it. Even as their parent, it’s not your problem to fix. Don’t insist on any big moves (like marital counseling or expensive retreats) for the couple. Realize that the couple may not be interested in patching things up. Instead, a willing ear and unconditional love should get you and your child through those difficult first days.
Coping with Change
As your child enters the continuing stages of going through a divorce, you, as a parent, will face fresh challenges. As much as you may try, neutrality is nearly impossible. You will find yourself trying to negotiate a tricky path of support without doing anything that would make a working relationship with their in-laws impossible. This is where you need to focus on your recovery as well, especially if you or your spouse were emotionally devastated by the news of divorce. Now is the time to take steps, such as limiting sacrifices, setting priorities, taking time for yourself, and getting counseling if necessary. Try to find resources (books, podcasts, counselors, friends, etc.) to help your child focus on the things that matter to them, not on the negative aspects of the divorce. This would include helping them process through the stages of grief – this is a loss, after all.
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Make Family Bonds Stronger
Divorce doesn’t just affect the couple involved – extended families will also have to walk through the situation carefully and thoughtfully. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, siblings – it can be difficult for any of the extended family members to watch their family member go through something this hard. This is not the time for division – this is the time for unity, in a positive, life-giving manner. Your child (or your family member) needs all the support they can get at a time like this, so whether you have to have a family meeting, have time with a professional counselor, or offer help with kids, finances, or making decisions, it’s not time to think about yourselves – it’s time to focus on supporting and sustaining your child.
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The Bottom Line
At this point, every family’s situation will be different. There could be a lot of emotions involved, a lot of people involved, and a lot of information being passed back and forth between the couple and their families. Some families will maintain cordial relationships with the former spouse; others will find themselves subject to negative emotions, threats, or even violence. If you find yourself in this place, it’s time to try to see things from the divorcee’s perspective and try to help them look toward the future.
If your child needs a family lawyer to assist them with their divorce, contact us at the The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates. Our experience with divorce law can help your child ensure that all aspects of their life stay intact. Give us a call today!