our everyday life

How to Respond to Your Child's Divorce

by Sheri Oz

Your child’s marriage seemed to promise happiness and stability for your adult child and grandchildren for you. Maybe you thought everything was going well; or perhaps you have sensed or even known for some time that there was something wrong in the marriage. Now you’ve been told it’s over: Your child’s marriage is going to end in divorce. With or without grandchildren, your child’s divorce is a blow to you. You are worried, knowing how difficult it is, financially and emotionally to be alone again.

What's a Parent To Do?

Separate your issues as a parent from your child’s issues as an independent adult. The best way to do this is to talk with your partner or a friend about what you are feeling. This will help you distinguish between your concerns and your child’s needs. You are likely worried about your child’s financial stability and the pain and distress he or she is going through. You may also be grieving the loss of your child’s new family unit that was part of your family as well. However, your feelings are not your child’s concern. Get support for yourself so that you can focus on your child’s needs.

Ask your child to tell you what help would be most appreciated. Some adult children share their feelings with their parents and some do not; most children will be happy to get other kinds of support from you. Your son may need your help with the kids on his visitation days. Your daughter may ask you to help her look for a new apartment. A request for financial assistance is likely to arise in many cases.

Before agreeing to requests for help, think about whether or not you can truly comply. Tell your child you will consider the request and respond after having had time to reflect on it. Can you afford the time or the money involved in granting the request? You may often put yourself out for your child, but it is not advisable to harm your own security in doing so. Do not agree to something that you are likely to regret in the future.

Give positive feedback to your child. This painful and confusing juncture in your child’s life may be experienced as a serious blow to his or her sense of self-worth. Children are never too old to need hearing from their parents that they are loved and respected. A way to help boost your child’s self-esteem would be to comment when your child behaves with intelligence or good common sense.

Tips

  • Stacey Morrison, author of “Falling Apart in One Piece,” puts divorce into an unusual perspective that you may find encouraging. On her blog of the same name, she gives examples of five ways friends can help a divorcing friend. You may find some ideas there about how to help your child.
  • Another website -- HelpGuide.org -- describes what it is like for people going through divorce and it might help you understand your child’s needs at this time.

Warning

  • You may regret doing too much to help if you risk your own financial stability or leave no time for rest or activities you enjoy; you may regret doing too little and not being part of your child’s healing from the trauma of divorce. Find the best balance for you.

About the Author

With an Master of Science in marital and family therapy, Sheri Oz ran a private clinical practice for almost 30 years. Based on her clinical work, she has published a book and many professional articles and book chapters. She has also traveled extensively around the world and has volunteered in her field in China and South Sudan.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images